It sure feels like we do a lot of celebrating around here. And it’s easy for one celebration to bleed into the next, and to get all celebrated-out and forget even what we’re doing. But, whoa, tomorrow is a whole ‘nother thing.
Tomorrow, dear Littlest little one, is the day we celebrate you. You probably didn’t even know that such a thing existed, but only that you’re swept up into the latest pile of goodness, and yes, that’s true, too. But there is day marked out just for you. This birthday of yours, this January 9th, is all for you. One whole trip around this sun. You’ll have had all your first days, now, and you’ll just start to accumulate more. It’ll be your second first day of spring, then, and you’re second Thanksgiving. Then comes thirds and fourths and you have your whole life full of days to look forward to.
Oh Littlest – you have never seemed little! Oh, yes, you are my peanut, smaller than even your brother was, but I laugh, because I know the secret inside that smallness: “Though [s]he be but little, [s]he is fierce!” (You see, this is my secret, too). And I see that fierceness, every day, as you refuse to sit back and watch your brother and sister carry on without you. You were my earliest one to crawl; earliest to walk. And that walk didn’t take long to turn into a run – for months, now, you’ve had me scrambling faster to try to stay one step ahead of you, though I am barely successful. Faithfully observant, you never let an opportunity pass: if I have forgotten to pull up the dog’s water bowl, I know it within seconds because you’ve upended the whole thing and are blissfully splashing in your puddled creation. And if it’s not the dog bowl, it’s the trash can. If not the trash can, the CD player. It’s always something with you, kid. You’ve tested the sharpness of my reflexes far more times than those other two.
You’ve been running trucks with the big kids now, hands gripping the edges of the yellow plastic Tonka, body bent over your vehicle, “vrrrmmm, vrmmm-ing” as you hustle to catch up. Sometimes you stop, mid-stride, to clap for yourself. Often I’ve thought to ask for your birth certificate, pretty sure that you’re pulling one over on me here, seeming more aged than I remember. But I was there, oh-yes-very-much-so-there, at your birth. Still, I have a hard time understanding it all – this compact little body, so capable; this little mind, understanding of so much.
But you are the littlest of three and though sometimes it’s easy for us to sweep you up into the fury of this family and expect you to fall into place, I know that there is so much glory that you see. There is so much life happening all around you. It’s all you can do not to just throw your legs over the rungs of your crib and shimmy down (if you could, though I wouldn’t put it past you), turn up the volume and start dancing like a fool, not to be left out of any family-style dance party. That, or find your seat at the table, grab a few crayons and became your own Picasso. Or play football, to throw your body on top of that pigskin that is bigger than you. You refuse to be left out (even when the Middlest is determined to put boundaries on your play, yelling “No!” in you face).
Though you command us to pay attention to you, it’s not in any attention-grabbing way. You are not there to steal the spotlight, no. It’s actually the opposite: you are content to just march on, find your place in line, watching long enough to figure out the beat, and once you’re confident you’ve found the rhythm you just jump on in, never allowing the jump rope to tangle, or the song to stop.
It’s these moments of family rhythm when I am so glad – so glad - that we are a family of five. Though I’m not ever sure that I will feel, as some claim to, that our family is complete, I know for certain that it was not before you came. I was so nervous to add to what we had before you, so worried to upend any delicate balance that I thought we’d achieved. But I just didn’t know. I didn’t know the joy; I didn’t know that fullness. I didn’t know that families are not scales to be made still, striving for perfect balance. I made it about me, somehow, but it isn’t. It never was. It’s about you. And I’m so glad that I’m getting to know you.
It is always with a sense of sadness that I take in the breathless wonder of my babe’s first birthday, and yours is no different. I am proud of us, proud of you for doing all the hard work of growing this first year. But there is no turning back the clock. Those precious firsts are now memories, snapshots of photographs, a mix of sound bites and hazy impressions to be called upon later. I’ve had a glimpse of the good that is to come; I’ve seen it already with your brother and sister, and I know you’ll have your own shade of this. But I also know that you’ll never be so small again as to fit tucked in to the crook of my arm. Babies don’t keep.
As we, you, throw ourselves into the centrifugal force of turning the curve of a year, I wonder how you will show me more of you. What kind of toddler will you be (for I know for certain that you are baby no longer)? Inquisitive and non-stop, I’m sure, but will you settle into moments of quiet, too? Will you learn to grab a book and back yourself into my lap like you’ve seen the big kids do? Will you be a chatter box, your mouth simply the overflow of the work of your brain? Or will you keep that noise to yourself, turning the sounds over in your head until you are ready to share with us? Will you be an adventurous eater, tasting everything set before you? Or will you cultivate a sophistication, a palate of your choosing? I don’t doubt you’ll keep that sense of humor, that laugh that bursts forth in a contagious explosion, mostly directed at your brother and sister. And some how, some where I know that eventually (eventually!) you’ll sleep a full night. I do not worry with you the way I did when I was new at this. You have that, dear Littlest: this is not my first rodeo, and you benefit from my experience.
Oh, Littlest, you were laughed in to this world (I’m certain that I broke my waters because of a night of deep belly laughs at dinner with far-flung family). Let’s keep on laughing together, okay?
Happy first birthday, little man.