To Josefine on Your First Birthday
One year ago right now, you were still inside me. A machine spat pages to my left—my heartbeat and yours, jagged mountain ranges side by side. I was four hours away from holding you, and I will never forget that moment: how warm you were, how slippery and solid, how suddenly you were in my arms. Your eyes were dark and wide, your gaze calm. Your dad and I were laughing and crying, and I can’t imagine what the world looked like to you—a bright, cold blur, except for the two of us, maybe, our hands on your skin.
One day, my little Bean, you will tell us who you are. You will tell the world who you are. But since you won’t remember these early days except, I hope, as a comforting invisible imprint—I will tell you about them. I will tell you about you.
At first, you slept. In your bassinet, in my arms, on your father’s chest. You slept around the clock but somehow not at all, because I was always holding you, always feeding you.
Then came the crying. You liked the late spring heat, and we paced with you on the back porch until your eyes eventually fluttered closed. You also liked big, sweeping bounces, the sense of rising and falling, so we used the exercise ball your Tia Amanda sent to me late in my pregnancy. Your dad researched colic holds, and that worked sometimes, too—him holding you stomach down, flying you. Before we knew about your allergies, we spent hours cycling your legs, siphoning tiny drops into your mouth, analyzing your grunts and kicks. We zipped and velcroed you in swaddles, we snuck you back into the hammocked groove of your rocker, we hoped for just another hour.
Nights were long, but they were sweet, too. The two of us on the gray chair in your nursery, the house cloaked in secretive silence, your little puffs of breath on my neck even after I could have set you down.
Those days feel so immediate but also, already, achingly far away. At six weeks, you smiled with recognition of us. At twelve weeks, you startled us with your first laugh. You started with your one-armed Army crawl around seven months. By then, you were eating everything we offered. You were shrieking with laughter at the dogs. You were sleeping well and napping well, no longer requiring me to strap you against my chest and walk for two miles around the house. By nine months, you’d gone on two trips with us—one to Colorado and one to Hawaii. That second trip, to Hawaii, was when you pulled up to your knees in your crib. Soon, you would be standing.
Your chestnut hair has always grown in two long curls around your ears, curls that refuse to be tamed by our fingers or barrettes, instead sticking straight out from your head like antenna. You pull barrettes out the way I used to, then pretend to put them back on. You dance to any kind of music, a full body dance, a joyful, laughing thrashing. You like for us to dance with you, but you’ll happily dance alone. You’re not talking yet, except for a perfectly enunciated, “Hi!” a couple of times, and the occasional “Vow!” like a little impressed vampire. You show us how the fan goes and how the fishie goes, and you point with a delicate finger to everything: the light, the window, the painted alpacas above your crib. You point at the sky, the cars, the trees—inquisitive and emphatic, inviting us to see what you see, but also to name it, and this isn’t lost on me, the responsibility and privilege of naming the world for you.
Among a room full of toys, you’ll almost always gravitate to books. Your favorites are board books and lift-the-flap books, books that give you the independence to turn pages, to explore. Your favorites are the Never Touch a Monster series, and you’ll peer behind the umbrella and boat and blanket in Where’s Baby’s Beach Ball? over and over again. Recently, I watched you fall in love with The Wonderful Things You Will Be. The illustrations, dreamy and beautiful, remind me of the books Mimi read to me as a child. We sat on the sheepskin rug in your room and read that book together for half an hour straight. I watched your face, how absorbed you were, how delighted. Each time we reached the end, you flipped the book over and opened it again.
You are endlessly curious and adventurous, and terrifyingly fearless. You crawl on all fours now, your knees always red. You open drawers and cabinets and transform the kitchen floor into a shiny field of Ziplock bags. You snake through the doggie door onto the back porch, where, oddly, you confine yourself to the cement, though you will lie on your stomach and pull out blades of grass. You pull leaves, too, and sticks and mulch. You pass them through your fingers, lift them to your mouth. Everything goes in your mouth.
You grin when we tell you “No.” You scream when we close the back door, and you roll and wriggle and shriek with most diaper changes. You love bath time, and always have, but hate being changed into pajamas after. When you’re ready for a nap, you crawl into our laps or pull on our pants legs, asking to be carried. When you drink your bottle, you play with your ears or your hair. I sing you the lullaby Mimi sang to us each time I put you to sleep. With people you don’t know or don’t see often, you are reserved but unafraid. Your stare is serious and direct, though you won’t object to being carried by someone new. At restaurants, you can be entertained for an hour just by watching people.
My love, you are the best parts of your father and me, and you are also entirely yourself—a universe, mysterious and vast and only partially known. Every day, I am grateful to see more.
I love you more than I could ever explain, and I can’t wait for what this year will bring.