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Nothing could have been a greater honor than my friend’s request that I be her baby’s God-mother. We didn’t know exactly what that might mean, as this special relationship would occur without religious affiliation. But since Erin and I refer to one another as spiritual sisters, it made perfect sense that I’d be involved in the spiritual life of her daughter.
Samantha was a stunner from day one, wrapping us around her tiny fingers, breaking our hearts with pouty faces, cracking the room with sunshine when she smiled. I remember how huge she seemed, substantial in my arms as I rocked her, and how petite she appeared three years later in pink tights and a tutu, shy to dance for me. Erin and I were co-writing a book in Sami’s earliest years, and to start her reading-life, I’d given her an early-version Nancy Drew story. One day she marched into the office clutching the little tome to her chest. “I love this book!” she proclaimed. “I’ve loved it all my life!” (Needless to say, I proceeded to give her the whole set.) When her school established a special visiting day for favorite grown-ups other than parents to visit, Sami chose me. When I began traveling a lot, she painted me an airplane surrounded by a rainbow to keep me safe, which I still carry. Erin and I hosted her very first tea party at my house — fancy dresses, bone china, and all the trimmings. We managed to keep straight faces when she dove into the scones and emerged with a dollop of clotted cream on her nose. One year we dressed as cheetahs and tigers for Halloween, and that photo is still framed on my shelf. The very best Oscar party I ever attended was the year Erin and her husband and I watched the show on television at their home: during each commercial, Sami gave us her interpretation of the films under consideration in dance and recitation. If grade school and Junior High seemed to have sped by, highschool passed like a flash of lightning, and soon we were watching her process through Disney Hall in her elegant blue cap-and-gown, dazzling in both beauty and accomplishments.
Along with being a successful actress, business woman and civic leader, Erin is an imaginative, devoted mother, both to Sami and her older brother. I love being a sounding board when big choices are afoot, or an assistant when major events are being planned. Of course, through the years it was Sami’s parents who did the heavy lifting: discipline and homework, wardrobes and tuitions, friendships and pets. I seemed mostly to float above these earthbound duties, offering special moments and the occasional words of wisdom from my God-mother cloud. And yet this precious young woman will forever remain on my radar screen, and I check her position and altitude as I pilot my own plane through the skies. Dear as they were, those early years were really prelude to the life-long friendship we’re just beginning to enjoy.
Samantha is now an actress already listed on IMDB and a writer with her own blog Tinselhound.tumblr.com, created for the appreciation and review of up-and-coming indie artists. “It’s my goal to have their voices and melodies heard,” she explained. While she supports other artists, she’s also working toward balancing her own life — the artist with the business woman, the brains with the beauty, the thinker with the feeler. Her own words say it best: “I’m focusing on finding a way to have the heart of a starving artist, the mindset of a responsible and contributing member of society, and the soul of a caring and outgoing friend and family member.” With this vivid statement of purpose, she’ll succeed at all this, and in some ways already has. I’d say she and I are in different chapters of the same pursuit: balancing head and heart.
When a child is present in our lives, the question of nature or nurture always comes up. Samantha has taught me the answer. We have to use our heads — every bit of our ingenuity and intelligence — to notice what they need and do our utmost to nurture. But it’s with our hearts that we support their essential nature, loving the essence of who they are, and taking a stand to protect their individuality even when it might be at odds with our own beliefs. What I’ve learned from my God-daughter is how to love unconditionally. No matter what choices she makes in her life — even if they’re choices my head doesn’t understand — I’ll always be able to love her with my whole heart.