It was early in the morning, when Sophia sprung up from under her bed sheets.
"Today is my birthday!" She shouted.
"Today I turn eight years old!"
Sophia ran to her bedroom door, yanked it open, and smiled at her mother, who held a large plate of pancakes in her hands.
"Nihstena," Sophia said to her mother. Nihstena means 'mother' in Mohawk.
"It's my birthday today!" Sophia said happily as she twirled around her room.
"I know, my little Eksa'a," She said as she handed the plate of hot pancakes to Sophia. Eksa'a means daughter in Mohawk.
"Thank you, Nihstena!" Sophia said happily as she ran to the kitchen to eat her breakfast. After she had eaten, she heard her mother call her.
"Sophia! Sophia my darling, come here!"
Sophia quickly wiped her mouth on her sleeve and ran out into the yard to see her Mother holding a beautiful dress decorated with beads and little bells which tinkled in the wind.
"Nihstena, did you make this Jingle Dress for me?" She asked as she admired the beautiful dress.
"Yes, my Eksa'a. It is for you- now you can join your father in the next community Pow-Wow." Sophia's mother said as she gave the dress to her daughter.
"May I try it on?" Sophia asked as she hugged her mother tightly.
"Of course you may, Eksa'a." Sophia's mother replied with a smile. Sophia ran into the house as fast as she could to try her new Jingle Dress on.
"Oh my gosh!" Sophia gasped when she slipped her dress on.
As soon as she finished twirling around in-front of her mirror, her Mother called again.
"Eksa'a, come here! Your guests are arriving! Your Niha is here!" Niha means father in Mohawk.
Sophia ran outside, a smile spread wide on her face.
"Hello everyone!" Sophia said as she looked through the thick crowd of people. After a few minutes of searching, she saw her father, who'd been on a business trip for three long months.
"Niha!" Sophia called as she dashed through the crowd, and into her father's arms.
"My beautiful Eksa'a; I am so glad to see you!" He said happily as they hugged tightly, as if they were knotted together forever.
"I'm glad to see you too, Niha." Sophia said as she smiled.
"If only Hsotha was here," She said as she started to frown. Hsotha means grandfather- and he had gone to the spirit world long ago.
Slowly, Sophia started to cry.
"Eksa'a, don't you cry," Her father said quietly.
"" Her father said as he placed a hand over his weeping daughter's heart. He looked into her eyes and smiled.
"Dry your tears, Eksa'a, today is your happy day… now, let's go and open your gifts!" Her father said as he lifted Sophia up and walked over to Sophia's mother, both of them laughing.
"Okay, Eksa'a," Her mother said,
"It's time to open your gifts!"
"Oh boy," Sophia said happily as she skipped up to her mother and took a gift box from her hands. She carefully sat down on the ground, lifted up the lid and gasped. She slid her hands into the box and lifted out a beautiful drum.
"Oh Niha, oh Nihstena- it's wonderful!" Sophia said with a smile. She reached back into the box and lifted out her drum stick.
"Oh Niha, oh Nihstena- I've always wanted a drum! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome, Eksa'a." Her parents said together.
That night, when Sophia lay in bed, she heard a voice.
"Sophia… Sophia… rise from your bed and play me."
"Huh?" Sophia said, looking around her room.
"I am your drum," The voice said as Sophia walked over to her desk, where she had left her drum.
"Why must I play you? She asked.
"You must wait and see, Khesotha." The drum said to her.
Sophia was scared, but not scared enough to go back to bed.
"Okay," She said,
"But my parents must not hear me, for they are sleeping."
"Do not worry, Khesotha. They will not." Said the drum.
Sophia picked up her drum and stick, and played a quiet song her grandfather had taught her long ago. Suddenly, she felt her drum slowly rise into the air.
"Hold on tight, Khesotha, a journey is not far ahead!"
Sophia clung to her drum, and flew out of her small bedroom window.
Sophia looked down below her, and realized that she was now in a beautiful forest, lit by the silver moon, still flying with her beloved drum.
"Now, Khesotha, look around. What do you see?" Sophia's drum asked.
Sophia looked around to see soaring Eagles, swimming Turtles, Bear Cubs wrestling playfully, and then she saw… her mother… standing with her grandfather… holding a little baby.
"Sun will come, after day is done, through the darkness the drumbeat will guide you. The beat of your heart, is your own unique art, love is here for you." The drum sang, and Sophia quietly began to cry.
"My grandfather used to sing that song to me…" Sophia said quietly. Then, she heard her father's voice.
"Eksa'a, don't you cry." His voice said.
"You are surrounded by your family- Hsotha lives on in your heart."
"Look at your drumstick, Sophia." Her drum said softly. She looked down at her stick- two Eagle's feather's dangled from its end.
"Hsotha… my grandfather… he loved Eagles…" Sophia said softly.
"I did- I leave you these as my final gift to you, Khesotha, my granddaughter. I live on in your heart, Sophia. When you play your drum, I will be there to sing with you." Her drum said.
"Hsotha, you never really left me!" Sofia said with a smile as she hugged her drum.
"I never truly did- and I will always be with you now." Hsotha said as his voice faded away.
"Goodbye for now, Hsotha." Sofia said as she looked once more at her surroundings- she was back in her room, tucked into bed, her drum humming softly.
"Let the spirit of the Eagle guide you, Khesotha, and you will find me." He said as his voice faded away.
"Thank you, Hsotha," Sophia whispered as her eyes flickered closed,