You are one today. And I don’t know where to begin, but begin I will. When you get a bit older, you will learn something. You will learn that sometimes, often, much of the time, there are too many things to say in a certain situation, at a given time, but the important thing is to just start. Just start saying them, the things you need to say. Because it doesn’t help anything to wait, to tidy your thoughts, to edit your words before they spill from you.
Sometimes, it’s just best to spill.
The first thing you should know, that I’m convinced you already know, is that I love you. You will hear those words a lot in your life – from Daddy, from me, from your big sisters, Moo Moo and Grammy and Dad-Dad, from aunts and uncles and cousins, from friends, from lovers – but these words matter. They are deceptive in their brevity, in their apparent simplicity, in their commercial and cinematic ubiquity. These words can be shorthand for a whole world. So listen to them.
I love you because you are beautiful and smart and silly and mine. I love you for your tiny teeth and for that head full of sandy blond hair up top; you have your Daddy’s hairline which is kind of hilarious on a baby girl, but don’t worry, it will grow. I love you because you have your own language and you are emphatic in your utterances. My favorite of your “words” these days is mep; you say it when you are angry, when something has not gone your way. Mep, you say, tears glossing your blue eyes, cheeks pinking, hands flailing about. Mep.
I love you because you stand in your crib when you wake up and hang your little chin over the rail. I love you because you are impossibly affectionate. I say hug and you bury your face in my chest. I love you because you are wildly unique even in your locomotive style. Currently, you do the three-limb jig. You move around in the seated position using one arm and you are fast. You are days or weeks from walking and I am eager for this to happen and also ambivalent about this milestone. Because you can’t begin walking away from us until you begin walking.
Tonight I will give you your very last bottle. I will take you up to bed and change your diaper and wrestle your small and strong body into your pajamas – hand-me-downs from your big sisters. I will dim the chandelier and zip you into your sleep sack and cradle you on my lap in the yellow rocker. And I will feed you. And while you drink, I will sing you a song and wonder how we are here, here, already. And when you turn away from it, your bottle – it’s happening earlier and earlier these days as it seems you are ready to move on – I will carry you to your crib. I will slip your paci between your lips and drape your little pink lamb on my shoulder and you will nestle in. And, in the silence, I will dance there for a few moments, our few moments, and kiss your forehead and say it, I love you more than you know.
And I will place you down and cover you up and run my hand through your soft hair and say the day’s final words, Goodnight, my tiny. And then I will flip the lights and tiptoe out and close the door. Tonight I will stand on the other side of the door for an extra moment and I will probably cry. I will probably cry because this is big, this day, this marker, this everything. I will probably cry because you are my baby, my last baby, and you are one. I’ve been whispering something in your ear recently, something I hope you absorb somehow and maybe remember.
That something: You will always be my baby, okay?
But then I will wipe my tears and I will walk the hallway to your sisters who will be bouncing around their purple room trying to stall their surrender to pajamas and brushed teeth. I will enter the mix and help your Daddy. I will wrangle and tickle and whisper promises of stories and sweets. I will tell them to be quiet because you are sleeping. And then we will all settle in, and read, and sing. And tonight, I will force myself realize something that is true and divine: that you are on your way to being a big girl like they are, that this will be your land too, this land of giggles and negotiations and potty humor and sass. And this is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? That you will enter their ranks, be the tiniest member of their tribe.
One day. One day you will be big and smart and perceptive. You will see me not just as Mommy, but as a person. A person like you. You will see that I struggle with things, vast things, small things. You will see that I am worlds from perfect, and guessing much of the time. You will see that I am frustrated, or confused, or reeling. You will also, I hope, see that I love you, wildly and deeply, and that I am trying. Because I am. I am now on this day when you are turning one and I will be then. Trying.
Time is something that baffles me. I think about it often. What it really means, how it really travels, whether it is something that we control or controls us. It is a topic that means more to me now that I am a mother. I’m not sure why this is but I think it’s because I know in my heart and in my soul that it has its limits; I will only have you girls underwing for so long. And this is sad, but more than that, it is inspiring. Time is tricky and fleeting but I am going to use it well.
And I’m also going to write about it. I’m going to write about it, this time of ours, so that you can read about it, and ask about it, and know. I’m going to write about it, frankly, because this is what I do and what I love and how I process and reflect and revere. I’m going to write about it because I think there is an immense and ineffable majesty in words strung together into stories, stories that can be read and told and retold. I’m going to write about it because these days, these birthdays and everydays, are it, they are everything and if we are not careful they can be lost.
I am rambling now. You will learn that people, thinking and feeling people, ramble. They ramble because their thoughts are not linear and neat, but swift and staccato, because there is a chaos there, a beautiful and rich chaos fermenting behind the quiet of most moments, especially big ones. They ramble because they are bursting, because they are in love.
Would I press pause today and memorize you if I could? Maybe. Maybe I would. But I can’t. Instead I can hold you extra tight today and twirl you around and watch you eat yellow kitty cake. I can smile and laugh and cry and rejoice at the fact that you have been in this big bad world for a whole year, a wonderful year, that you really are on your way, that you are, and will always be, mine, ours, yours.
Spilling. Trying. Rambling. Loving. This is life, my girl. It’s messy stuff, but it’s also grand.
I love you, kid. Big time. To itt-bitty pieces.