one full hand

Oh Renee.  You are five now. Which seems impossible and of course the only truth all at the same time. But I think we say that about every day of you. You are constantly miraculously surprising, and yet, so consistently yourself.

Renee, you have fun. Always. This year, you are part of a real-deal soccer team. No more clinic camp for you. You practice each Wednesday, and it is my absolute favorite thing to cheer your name loud and clear on Saturday mornings. You are there in your pale blue jersey, the littlest on the team, but no one would ever tell you that, and you don’t stop moving the entire time. Your skipping-run and wide smile say it all.

When there isn’t fun, you make it.

You are never bored, nor are you ever boring. Your ingenuity and imagination have me constantly chasing you down some rabbit hole. You tied your jump rope to a lawn chair the other day, then climbed up the ladder to the play house of the swing set, towing that lawn chair behind you. You were not even deterred when it became clear that the chair was too big to fit through the opening. You see all challenges as opportunities (and how did you ever learn to tie knots, girl?)

You collect. It hardly matters what: stones, sticks, bugs, tickets, books, words, stories, friends. But you know each thing individually, remember its story and significance, and can recount it to me with such conviction that I, too, can see it.photo6

Your preschool teacher pulled me aside to tell me that she loves the way you talk about things – that you “prefer” something or other, for instance.

I write down what you say almost once a day. Because you are that amazing.

You have this ability to articulate so specifically, so accurately, and without the pretense of worrying how it will sound or what people will think. Your vast vocabulary lends itself to such directness.

Here is one of my favorite Renee moments: You climbed the ladder to the monkey bars on our swing set. You are quite capable of doing monkey bars, but the ones you like best are only five feet or so off the ground, giving you a bit more security in the whole venture. Ours soar above that comfortable height, and mostly you can motivate yourself to do some hanging before tucking back into safety. There you were, at the top of the ladder, gearing up to grab that first rung and swing out. And it’s in that moment where your vulnerability and articulation meet. “I’m trying to beat this trembling out of me” you tell me strongly, forming a fist and gently rapping at your heart. After a few false starts you back up again to stand tall on the ladder and declare “I still have this trembling!”

Renee, the ability to say those types of things, to put words to what it is you are feeling even if you don’t understand it and even especially when you can’t control it – that is magic. Use it well.

A few weeks ago we were driving into Philadelphia, which you affectionately call Center City. It was a beautiful fall day. The highway winds next to the Schuylkill River, and as the October sun was slanting low the light was glinting and sparkling off the water. Tall building began to rise up in front of us, and the train yard and Art Museum were coming into view. Your voice broke the silence of the back seat: “I like going into the city because I get to see things I haven’t seen before.” You are observant about things that never catch my attention. It is one of your best gifts. You help me really see.

You know how to party in style. For weeks you’ve been giving me tips about this year. The pictures hanging from the window, the pink streamers, the party hat with sparkles – it was all exactly to your specifications (and if wasn’t, you let me know). You know how to celebrate, and how to be celebrated. Renee, I have so much to learn from you.

Your birthday list included two teepees (a big one for you, and a little one for Little Bun). You asked for a set of belts for your birthday. Not just one belt, or some belts, but a set. And because ‘Bin is that amazing, she made sure that you had a set of belts for turning five.

And because, Renee, you turn me inside out with such joy, it feels selfish to keep it to myself. Here are some of your recent gems:

  • “He mads me out!”
  • “I’m trying to act, and respect, like a sheep.”
  • “Today I’m kinda feeling like a mommy…”   
  • “It feels normal; it feels like the inside of a skunk,” telling me about the olives on the tips of your fingers.
  • “All night long there was fluff in my head, so I couldn’t read my own stories: my dreams.”
  • “Something is interesting: after I drink my tea, my teeth feel like a rug.”

Piglet says “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” and that’s how I feel about every day with you, Renee.

I love you. Happy 5th birthday.


You can read more about Renee and her birthdays: four, three, and two


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