The summer after Pamela turned six, Eric and I decided to take a trip back to France. The three of us spent ten glorious days in Paris seeing the sights before we ventured out into the countryside to find the LeClerq farm. Sophie-Anne greeted us like long lost relatives and Pamela took to her immediately. Sophie-Anne's father was kind enough to give up his bedroom, insisting that we take it for the duration of our visit.
The first night there, we were making up the sofa for Pamela when she commented that Sophie-Anne had a crocheted blanket just like hers at home. I told her that I had made it for Sophie-Anne while I was expecting Pamela and sent it here as a present because Sophie-Anne had been so kind to me. I fingered the soft wool and wistfully thought of how Gran had patiently taught me to crochet that spring and this blanket was my first project. I knew that if I looked closely that I would find the mistakes, but Gran said that those made it all the more special and convinced me to send it in spite of it's imperfections. It touched me that it was displayed so prominently on the sofa.
I told Pamela the story of how Sophie-Anne saved both Eric and me, but I made sure it was told in a way that wouldn't scare her. Pamela looked up at Eric and said, "Daddy, did you send Sophie-Anne a present too?"
"Yes, love, but nothing as special as Mama's present. I just sent some money."
Everyone laughed and Mr. LeClerq pointed out in his broken English the overhead light and kitchen faucet and then gestured in the direction of the bathroom, and I understood that Eric's money had allowed him to modernize the house. I looked questioningly to Eric and he told me that he had arranged for the money to be sent the day he went to Shreveport to get my engagement ring. That's why he'd wanted one of Sophie-Anne's letters—to have her address.
Later, when we were alone I told him that I was happy that he sent the money and he said that it was the least he could do. Sophie-Anne's kindness had changed our lives and neither of us could express our gratitude enough for that. When we made love that night in the same bed where Pamela had been conceived, we were both thoughtful, pensive, emotional. I thought of how frightened I'd been the morning after as we'd said our hasty good-byes, wondering when or if I'd ever see Eric again. And now we were both so grateful at how our lives had turned out. We knew how lucky we were, and coming back to this place reminded us in a very special and sobering way.
Sookie and I spent three weeks in the country with Pamela visiting the LeClerqs. It was the best vacation we could have imagined. Pamela loved playing with the animals and took to Sophie-Anne like a long-lost aunt.
Sookie and I both knew she was pregnant even before she missed her period. After six years of trying, apparently all we needed to do was to return to that magical place.
When we got back to Shreveport, we turned what had become our study back into a nursery. For this pregnancy, I didn't miss a day and loved watching Sookie's body change and become even more beautiful.
Sophie-Anne Stackhouse Northman was born nine months to the day after our arrival at what we now call the Magical Farm. She was perfect and Sookie did just fine. Pamela couldn't have been more excited about her new baby sister and my own sister fell in love all over again with her new niece. Sookie's brother even made more frequent trips to Shreveport for visits after Sophie-Anne's arrival.
I've spent a lot of my time thinking about how close I came to never knowing the kind of happiness our family has brought us. I never take a single day for granted. I remember what it felt like to be afraid that I would never see Sookie again, never hold her or tell her how much I loved her. And now, as I watch her with our beautiful daughters filling our family home again with love and laughter I am grateful every day that those feelings I remember from a long time ago feel a world away. It's not something I'm likely to ever forget.