Tomorrow, Renee, you turn four years old. Together we made pumpkin bread to bring in to your class at preschool and you were excited to tell me that you get to be “Star of the Week” again today. Baby, you are Star of the Week everyday, here.
You have a sense of humor, a sense of style and language and life, that is wildly entertaining. When I ask you if you have brushed your teeth yet, you shout “Negative!” because, really, to answer plain ol’ “no” is so boring. After fixing a headband around your head, not up and down to hold your hair back, but more horizontal like Wonder Women, you asked me: “Does this make my life stylish?” You are nothing but all style, girl.
You have a bravery that it admirable. You are not afraid to try new things, and you are not afraid to be done with them. You are learning soccer this Fall, and you thrive having this thing that is just yours, even for just an hour, when your brothers are not on the field stealing the ball, or my attention, and you are out there with the other kids whom you do not know and you are making friends. You are your own. The coach has you do these drills, and you kick the ball and you run, until you don’t feel like doing it anymore. You never do the leap frog jump, and you stand there and wait, watching the other little boys and girls jump over their soccer balls and back again, and you wait. You wait until they are done, and the coach calls out the next directions, and you do the next thing. You run after your ball, you dribble it down the field, but it’s not so much about the ball, or the field. You come home with a headband that is not yours, because a little girl you didn’t know until that evening gave it to you. You make fast friends.
At Grant’s soccer game the next morning, you watch a group of three or four girls run around the pine trees. They sit on the curb by the parking lot braiding each others’ hair, and when they run back to the sideline of the soccer game where you are sitting with me, your eyes never leave them. By the following week, you are asking me if you can play with them. Hand and hand we walk to this group of girls, these sisters of the kids on Grant’s soccer team, and you let me introduce you. That’s all it takes, and you are absorbed into the fold of these girls who are each others’ neighbors, girls who run through sprinklers together in the summer. But it never occurs to you that you might not know them the way they know each other, and anyway you don’t care. I walk back to the sidelines to watch the game, and I can hear your wild laugh from there. When I turn to check on you, I see that you have become the leader, your face flush from it all.
Tobin took this picture of you the other night, in the basement, when we were getting organized for your brother’s camping. You are wearing some sort of princess dress that is a size or two too small for you. You have on your bike helmet, and are scooting around in the garage sale Fisher Price roller blades we bought over the summer. You have been carrying around your turtle, the one that says “Florida” on its belly, in the little car seat. Around you Daddy and Grant are counting batteries for the lantern, and checking the poles to the tent. You are feeling left out of the hum of activity, so you have made your own.
You shared my bed with me while Daddy and Grant were camping on that blustery, rainy night. It was less glamorous than it could have been, maybe should have been, because we stayed at the campsite with them until dark, and when we came home it was late and we were tired. Griffin needed to get to bed, and Maggie needed to be fed. There was no time to play beauty salon, to paint toenails and braid hair, but you were happy to be tucked in to my cozy bed, propped high with pillows and blankets that are not yours, and watch a movie with me by your side. I was happy, too.
You were the best kind of three, and if I’m honest I’m a bit sad to see it go. You were the kind of three that was pure and unfiltered, from the things that came out of your mouth, to the depth and honesty of your heart on display. As we’ve inched towards four, I can feel things flying a little out of center, a little out of control, pulled by the centrifugal force of spiraling towards what’s next. Your voice that has been lyrical and full of melody and cadence can careen into a full screeching shriek that pierces and is hard to hear. You are worried about not being heard, not being seen, tucked in between these brothers of yours. But trust me, beautiful girl, we couldn’t miss you.
You are living life in the pages of Peter Pan, fuzzy on the difference between real and imagined, and your dreams have been infiltrated with stories and pictures that can scare you at times. You ask questions. Lots of questions. You are curious, and want to know about everything. What does this mean, how does that work. Where do these things come from, and how, and why. You have a slight fascination with infinity, and though the concept is almost impossible for you to understand, you haven’t stopped trying. At the dinner table last night, Tobin asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up. Your answer was fast: “Peter Pan.” Because, Renee, I think you know something here. I think you know that Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, might not be a bad thing to be right now.
Star of the Week, I’m coming to your classroom today to read a book with your class. You’ll wear a crown, maybe, and they will sing to you. You’ll show me who your buddies are, because I’m still learning names. And then I’ll bring you home, sit side by side with you eating peanut butter and jellies. And tomorrow you’ll wake up, and you’ll be four.