I expect very few of you to read this post. It’s one for the superfans. Of the girls that is, not my superfans (inevitably a much smaller clique). So I’m mainly speaking to my mum and dad. Perhaps my in-laws. And possibly Mina when she’s old enough to read this, assuming she’s even interested. And that the internet still exists then.
By all rights, this should rank as the dullest post I’ve ever written. A doting panegyric to my youngest child is hardly a crowd-pleaser. But Mina isn’t dull. She’s one of the least dull people I know. I spent five solid months with her and never had a dull moment. Even her hair is arresting, remarked upon wherever she goes. So maybe it won’t be such a dull post.
Mina hit the big numero uno a couple of weeks ago while we were in Portugal (if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably also read about that holiday). Not that she particularly cared where she celebrated her first birthday. For her the novelty of having some new toys to play with was sufficient.
Ah yes, novelty. Earlier this week she had her first day with our childminder Mandy (who is, incidentally, as Welsh as daffodils explaining why Euro 2016 was a low point in our relationship). When I dropped Mina off, Mandy asked me what she likes to play with. Easy one: anything new. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as she hasn’t seen it before.
A more butterfly-minded, capricious and insatiably curious little girl I’m yet to meet. We have photos of Lola sat looking at books when she was one. Not Mina who will sit still for roughly a page before trying to grab the thing, eat it, wear it or fling it across the room.
Bookish isn’t an adjective you’d attach to Mina. The problem with books is that you tend to have to stay in the same place to read them. Mina doesn’t do staying in the same place. You put her down, turn around and when you look back she’s never where you left her. Usually our kamikaze tot is teetering atop the nearest flight of stairs reaching down for something she’s dropped on the way up. I regularly find myself scooping her out of peril’s way.
One thing you can guarantee is that she knows what she’s up to. None of it is accidental. A smart cookie, our Mini. And naughty. She’s the baby who throws her food on the floor when she doesn’t want it then ignores you while you admonish her. Talk to the hand, Daddy. Her other tactic, when blanking us fails, is to make it near impossible to remain angry with her by packaging every instance of rebellion with a knowing smile or cheeky giggle.
She possesses a second child’s tenacity, that innate drive to fight for anything and everything which firstborn children rarely hone since they never have an elder sibling snatching their toys off them at every opportunity. Mina loses a lot of toys to Lola in that way but never resorts to tears, instead deploying more direct – some might say assertive –tactics to retrieve them.
As if to give a tangible metaphor for her resolve, Mina’s favourite activity at the playground is climbing up slides. Not the steps of slides, mind you, but the slide itself. Its an impossible challenge like a punishment meted out to some miscreant Greek king in Tartarus, but to give Mina her dues she persists until somebody intervenes.
Now that she’s starting to talk, we’re getting verbal evidence of her unshakable perseverance. The other morning we walked into the girls’ bedroom to find Mina standing in her cot repeatedly hollering “Ro-ra” across the room in an effort to wake her sister. As with the slide-climbing, if we hadn’t arrived on the scene, she’d still be there.
When I think of Mina, besides her titian hair (always her titian hair), I see her flapping both arms in the air as if conducting an orchestra. She’s gesticulated ever since her earliest days. Pointing is another preferred hand signal. If they remake ET, she’ll breeze into the lead role. She points at things she finds interesting, exclaiming “urh” so that we take note – unless she’s spotted a dog or a bird which are respectively “daw” and “ber”. She’ll get there. Those final consonants will follow.
I also think of her cheeks, as soft to my kisses as marshmallows.
This then is our flame-haired Mina at a year old. Inquisitive, intrepid, iron-willed. As bright and as bold as a brass buckle. If you haven’t met her, you should do. She’s unlike anyone else you’ll ever encounter. If you have, well, you’ll know what I’m talking about.