A woman that belongs to the same Multiple Sclerosis Facebook support group, that I joined back at the end of June, asked all of us if we'd send her youngest daughter, who's turning seven on October 21st, a birthday card and tell her about what it's like having MS. Said girl knows that her mother is different from other mommies, but her mother wants to show her that a lot of other people have the same condition too.
Now, that is a somewhat unusual thing to want to do on a young child's birthday, and some of the other women in the group gave the mother some crap about it ("You have MS, not her.", "Don't ruin your kid's birthday like that.", etc.), but, I figured that it was a relatively harmless thing to try, and processing that your mother has an incurable illness is probably a difficult thing for a young girl to come to terms with, so, it might help. Anyway, I decided I'd do it and told the mother to ignore the haters questioning her parenting and that I'd send her daughter a card.
I asked the woman what types of things/themes her daughter likes and she told me that she's a girly-girl that loves owls and rescuing animals. I tried to find an owl birthday card in the store, but, didn't have any luck. I found some other bird cards, but they were doves and stuff like that, and more for adults, not children. I also contemplated making a card for her from scratch, but, if, I'm being honest, I don't have a whole lot of interest or enthusiasm for making much of anything these days, so, I split the difference, picked out and bought a ballerina mouse card, and drew a portrait of the girl (using photos from Facebook as reference models), with an owl on her head, in the interior that I hope she'll like.
Here's a closer look at said owl. The bow is a little off-center, but, otherwise, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Besides, it's not like birds have fingers or thumbs to tie bows with anyway, so, it's nothing short of miraculous that she managed to do it at all!
And this is the front of the card I bought for her. I liked the art, but, in retrospect, I kind of wasn't thinking--the copyright is dated 2006, and that's five years older than the birthday girl herself! I don't even even know if the Angelina Ballerina cartoon airs anymore. I didn't buy it, because the cover had some suspicious-looking stuff dried on it that I wasn't sure would come off, but I also found an Angelina Ballerina children's book in a thrift store the other week and the copyright date on that was 2002 or 2003. Dancing rodents never go out of style though, right?
This is what the signed interior of the card looked like. In addition to my letter to the girl about MS (which I intentionally did separately, so that her mother could still give her daughter the card if she happened to have a change of heart about sharing other people's MS stories with her child), I also put a folded sheet of tracing paper in the center, to prevent the artwork (done in ink and pencil) from smudging the opposite side of the card while the envelope was in transit. I thought about putting some fixative on it too, but, I was afraid that the resulting dampness would make the card warp before it dried, which I obviously didn't want to happen, so, I didn't.
I don't think I captured the girl's likeness exactly and the spacing of her facial features, particularly the eyes, could be better, but, overall, I think the illustration works. I was going to post a photo of the real girl here, for comparison purposes, but, thinking about it, even though those Facebook images are public ones that anyone can look at, her mother might not like me doing that, so, I didn't. Likewise, when I originally typed this up, I used the girl's first name, but, when Rainbow Dash saw that, she beat me with a rolled-up newspaper and made me replace every instance with an anonymous "girl/she/her". My four-legged editor is helpful like that, violent, but helpful.
Writing a letter to a soon-to-be-seven-years-old girl about what's wrong with me was kind of a hard and awkward thing to do. I tend to be verbose [editor's note: "tend"?], but, as she's still learning how to read, at her mother's request, I had to keep it relatively simple and short for her to understand. On one hand, I didn't use a bunch of big medical terms that she probably wouldn't know, but, on the other, I don't like "talking down" to children either and didn't want to insult her intelligence with "baby speak" (in other words, I didn't want my letter to read like a Dick and Jane book), so, while I limited my word choices, I didn't make it super elementary either. It's hard to remember what my reading level was like at seven, that's for sure! I mean, I know I could read fairly well at that age, but, how well? And, of course, I was very careful not to be negative about having MS or what the future may hold for the health of her mother or myself. Physically, I'm not doing too bad right now, so, it's not like I had anything all that terrible to tell the girl anyway. I just wrote that I give myself shots three times a week, to try to keep myself from getting sick again, or, if I do get sick, so that it (hopefully) won't be as bad, and that sometimes my vision doubles or I get really tired. I don't feel that my letter would upset her in any way. I suppose it was even kind of therapeudic on my end as well.
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