When Lily was born, seven and a half years ago, she was a tiny little scrap of a person. Less than three kilograms, she struggled to learn how to latch, had furious colic and could only sleep with her nose pressed against my side. Since she was so small, white and squeaky, we started calling her Lily Mouse. That name has stuck, even though she is now tall, leggy and brown.
The name Mouse, while affectionate and sweet, doesn’t actually fit her well. She is a quiet and calm person, but is by no means timid. Her sense of self is strong and over the years, she has shown herself to be very brave. At three, we thrust her into German Kindergarten, having told her that we speak English at home (“inside”) and that out in the world (“outside”) all she would hear was German. She came back from her first day in an all-German environment and told my mother on the phone that she was “a bit disappointed because they were all Derman inside”. That let-down apart, she went back the next day with a smile on her face and was speaking Derman within six weeks. She has also acquitted herself brilliantly in her first year at Big School, getting a great report, and reading and writing Derman far better than most of her Derman classmates. She taught herself to read in English in May, and is already reading her third Harry Potter.
Lily is cerebral and artistic, but this summer has shown that she also has amazing physical courage. During one visit to a theme park, she went on scary rides – rollercoasters and demon drops – that are far too terrifying for me. She swam in the deep end of the pool at our Italian campsite without anyone watching. And then this week at our local pool, and with the encouragement of some big friends visiting from Dubai, she jumped off the small diving-board into the pool. Not content with that, she went and jumped off the medium diving-board. And then, summoning every ounce of courage in her seven-year-old body, chest heaving with adrenaline and fists clenched, she joined the teenagers and leapt off the high board. And then she did that ten more times.
We can’t call her Lily Mouse anymore. I think she’s a tiger. Tiger Lily.