~ 2005 ~ As the family was sitting at the dinner table tonight, the Mom could not help but stare at the little 7 year old girl. Her hair was pulled back in a messy pony tail, a heart sticker on one cheek, a Winnie the Pooh one on the other. On each fingernail the little girl wore a most stunning shade of orange. She was dressed all in pink with the Disney Princesses emblazoned across her chest. She was chatting non stop about school, swim class, her Christmas list (Yes, ALREADY!), the "gojus" Belle costume she will wear Halloween evening and what she wants in her lunch box tomorrow. Yes? Strawberries are a must! Gobbling down piece after piece of pizza (Tonight is her school's Papa John fund raiser nights. "Teacher says we gots to eat pizza tonight!"), she is trying to decide which flavor of ice cream she will have for dessert! Of course! Strawberry! "Mommy? I will help you clean up but first I needs to pick my clothes to wear to school for tomorrow. Hot or cold Mommy? Warm? Okay, but can I wear my new Hello Kitty shirt Grandma sent me? And the hair band too?" She heads up the stairs, stops, and gives her Mom a serious look. "Let me tell me you something Mommy. Hello Kitty is one of my "favortiz" but so is Strawberry Shortcake but I really love Cinderella. She is my bestest thing. Okay? Now you will remember 'cause I tell me you."Uh huh. Mom will remember...She bounds out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Mommy can hear her singing "Shoo fly, don't bother me..." as she none too quietly runs up the stairs. On the way back to the kitchen, she decides it is a good idea to slide down on her tushie. As she hits the floor of the foyer, she squeals in laughter. She loads the dishwasher and encourages Mommy to join her in a rousing rendition of "There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his nameo..." which she declares is "my Kippy's" (the family dog, Kipper) favorite song. She stops to laugh hysterically at something she hears on an "Everybody Loves Raymond" re run, asks her big brother why he has to go to his college classes at night. "Don't they let you go when it is sunny?" She then slaps him on his tush as he tickles her. She tickles him under the arms and puts ice down his back. As he tries to make his escape, she chases him out to his car shouting with all her might, "Byee Byee Byeee Phooey Face". Daddy comes in with Kipper and she runs and leaps into his arms. "Okay Daddy. Now we need to read a book cause I gots to take my bath okay?. Wait! I needs to show me you something!" She dashes upstairs again and re- appears with a picture she has drawn for Dad. It shows him as a rabbit with a tree in his ear. "It is just sooooooooooo silly huh?" She giggles so hard she falls off the couch. The parents don't quite get the joke but the sound of her laughter makes them giggle right along with her. She produces the book that Daddy must read, a story about Strawberry Shortcake that she has heard so many times she knows it by heart. One more reading can't hurt. "Oh! Can we go to the park and swing for just a little bit? Pleeeeeeeeease? Just for a minute?" Her backyard lines up with a park that has only just recently added a new swing/slide center. She and her all too obliging Daddy "race" out to the swings and Mommy can hear her laughing from just beyond the trees. The neighbors are outside with their new puppy as the little girl gallops across the yard toward home. She dives into the grass next to the puppy and shrieks with laughter as the 3 1/2 pound marshmallow jumps on her tummy and then plants several puppy kisses squarely on her mouth. The 2 of them roll around on the grass, much to the delight of her parents and several neighbors who are all now watching this noisy love fest. Bath time comes and after hopping into the tub, she pops out, runs down the hall (*mostly* wearing a towel around her), dripping water, to gather up a few bath toys she has forgotten. A Cinderella Soaky that once belonged to her Mom oh so many years ago and a Nemo doll that swims but only backwards. She is singing her show stopping rendition of The Wiggles "Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car" and play acting a scene or 2 from Cinderella while she luxuriates in her lavender bubbles. She dries her hair and lathers on the lotion she proclaims is "Just the yummiest!". She brushes her teeth using the Cinderella toothpaste, a Hello Kitty cup and the Barbie toothbrush. She actually hits the sink ever time she spits tonight and this seems to tickle her funny bone a great deal! She runs and leaps into bed with an Olympian medal winning flourish, cuddles up with her "Singing dog", winds his key and has to have Mommy sing along for a bit or sleep is somehow impossible! "Jesus loves the little children, all the little children...". The pillows are re-arranged and pounded a few times in her pink bed under her "Veeeeeery special Princess Butterfly" canopy. "Now I feel cozy...ahhhh." The nightlight is lit and she finally lies down with a sigh. "How many days till we go see "Dizzy World?" "Are you sure Cinderella lives there?", she asks for the 1000th time. She says a little prayer, lets Mommy and Daddy kiss her on the head, asks where Lucy the cat has gone and finally settles in for the night. As her parents closed the door, she called out, "See ya latah sweet patatahs...." The mommy and daddy could not help but think back to a small terrified child they once knew, a child with closely cropped hair, a sad expression and tears always at the ready. A little girl who knew no English, knew no Caucasians, and trusted little. A 6 year old girl who pulled away from any and all personal contact....just a year ago today.