Wales lies just west of England and is part of the United Kingdom. It is known as a country of rugged mountains and deep green valleys, but eight-year-old Miriam Gould lives in the capital city of Cardiff, which is located on a coastal plain that runs down to the Bristol Channel. She speaks English, but like all children in Wales, she studies the ancient Welsh language in school. In Welsh, Wales is called Cymru (KUM ree).
Wales is a land of song. From ancient bards (poet-singers) to modern choirs and poets, the Welsh have always celebrated the power of music and language. One such celebration is the eisteddfod (eye STETH vod), a festival of song, poetry, and choral speaking. Miriam’s family has competed in their stake eisteddfod and won in several categories.
Miriam has a beautiful voice and loves to sing. Her father, Tim, says, “She is often brought to tears by music. She’s especially touched by Primary songs. It’s the channel to her spirituality.” Among Miriam’s favorite songs are the three her father knows how to play on the piano—“Give, Said the Little Stream,” “I Am a Child of God,” and “Love Is Spoken Here.”
Miriam sings in the school choir and is starting piano lessons. She and her sister, Elizabeth (6), sang “A Child’s Prayer” for Miriam’s choir teacher. She played it on the piano, and they sang the parts. The teacher looked at the Children’s Songbook and said, “I really like this book. Can I have one?” She soon did.
The whole family enjoys the arts. Sam (11) is a very good artist. He also plays the trumpet and tuba and takes drama lessons. He has performed at the prestigious St. David’s Hall. Elizabeth studies ballet and drama. Miriam’s mother, June, is a professional photographer. Miriam is mastering the art of cooking. She specializes in snickerdoodles and chocolate cakes.
Her first love, though, is ballet. She started studying at age four, and plans to be a professional ballerina. She became so skilled that her teacher suggested that she audition to be a Junior Associate of the Royal Ballet School. This would mean attending a regional class with Royal Ballet School teachers once a month. Miriam was accepted. But with the acceptance letter came bad news—the classes were to be held in Swansea on Sunday! (Swansea is a Welsh coastal city west of Cardiff.) Miriam’s mother recalls, “I’d heard from Miriam’s ballet teacher that the class in Bristol (an English city east of Cardiff) would be held on Saturday, so I wrote a letter to the administrator of the Junior Associates explaining how I felt about the Sabbath and asking if Miriam could attend in Bristol. It was the most eloquent letter I’ve ever written. The administrator rang me and said, ‘I just received a letter from another parent wanting her child to move from Bristol to Swansea.’ It was an answer to prayer.”
Another bond the family shares is a love of animals. Sam takes early walks to a nearby park with a lake to look at rabbits, foxes, squirrels, and ducks. Ducks nesting on the green have learned to trust him, and though they run away from other children, they come to Sam. He keeps guinea pigs as pets, and wants someday to either work with wildlife or be an actor.
The Goulds got to know one animal in a rather unusual way. There was a knock on the door one day, and there stood the postman. “Is this your rabbit?” he asked. It wasn’t, but they agreed to look after it and try to find the owner. They put a notice in the local paper and the local shops: “Found—one white rabbit.” When no one came forward, the lost bunny was named Harriet, and Miriam had a pet of her own.
Elizabeth is a little young to take care of a pet, but she makes up for it with stuffed animals—Harry the Hedgehog, Moley the Mole, and a bear named Big Ted Brown, to name a few.
The Goulds love people too. Brother Gould is a keen cyclist and arranges bike-a-thons to raise money to help prevent child abuse. And every Christmas afternoon the family helps the Salvation Army prepare and serve food to the homeless.
Reading is another family passion. Miriam takes part in a public library reading program called Book Quest, and the family reads the scriptures each morning at breakfast. They have finished the Book of Mormon, and they are now enjoying the New Testament.
Although they have the usual squabbles, Miriam is close to her brother and sister. Sam may tease Miriam at home, but on the playground he defends her. He is looking forward to becoming a deacon and doing baptisms for the dead in the temple. He enjoys cycling, running, and Scouting.
Elizabeth is very tenderhearted, and can’t stand to see anyone being hurt, even in movies or on television. Someday she wants to work with people who don’t have any houses or food or water. When Brother Gould gave her a name and a blessing, he felt impressed to say that she would be an ambassador of peace and gifted in language. She is indeed gifted in language, with a vocabulary beyond her years. She studies French and speaks it with her father, who learned the language on his mission.
Miriam intends to go on a mission herself. She hopes to first tour many countries as a ballerina so that she will feel at home wherever she’s called to serve.