You are one year and five days old today.
I remember your fifth day on the planet (your one-seventy-third birthday) as a few photo-sharp moments surrounded by blur. It was the first time you left the house. We took you to the doctor's office. ...And where was he born? "At home." A year later, it actually feels like home. Mostly because you're in it. We're a family now, hot-cold-just right, like three little bears in our basement apartment-cave.
I was always pretty sure I'd have a child some day, but I never imagined it would be you. You are a little punky-pie, a cuddle-bug force of nature ready to blow my house down with your joy and energy. You've been that way since you were inside me. One evening when I just sitting quietly, only a little pregnant, I had it flicker through my mind that you were my son. I put my hand below my belly button and some tiny, joyous vibration said, "Hi, I'm a boy!" Later, I dreamt about uncovering my tightly swaddled baby boy in the middle of a giant bed. I didn't know what to do, because I didn't think I was ready for a son. But it didn't matter, because you were ready for me.
You were born on Saturday morning before the sun came up, and then it snowed.
I couldn't believe that I was your mother. I didn't feel how I thought a mother is supposed to feel. Instead, I felt a huge force, pushing down on me and grounding me to the earth. I had to be strong. I was incredibly, entirely responsible for a precious life--your survival, happiness, everything--and I was afraid of what would happen if I did something wrong. Especially since I didn't know yet what "right" was for you.
But you wanted to be with me anyway, and you forgot about the times that I messed up. You always take me back, and I feel so blessed. Because you're the coolest little man I know. Really. There are lots of people that I love, but I'm CRAZY about you and only you. Sometimes I just have to hug you and hold on as long as you let me, just to remind myself that you're real.
Now I look at you and wonder if it's really been a year. It went by so fast, like everyone said it would, and sometimes it seems like you're moving faster than I am. I've been counting the months since you were born--because baby-time goes in months--but I feel like I miscalculated something. Nine months seems about right, but twelve? Not possible. You were just a tiny baby, swaddled and propped up against my legs, weren't you?
But when I think back over the months with you, all the holidays are accounted for, and all of the birthdays and anniversaries. It really has been a year.
I'm incredibly different now from the person I was before you were born. In fact, if you knew the person I was, I don't think you'd like me very well. I never charged down supermarket aisles, making race-car noises for my shopping cart. I didn't make nearly enough silly faces. I only occasionally noticed neighborhood dogs, or pointed out the many colors of things, or blew raspberries. Your delight reminds me to stop and be delighted, too. You've taught me so much about slowing down, being patient, experiencing joy. I know now what it means to cherish something.
I just don't know how I got so lucky.
MaMay used to tell me that I would understand when I had a child. It was never anything specific that I would understand, and it was almost a threat: "Someday, you'll be the mom, and then you'll understand." I hated that. How could it be that there was some secret knowledge only parents got? But I think I'm starting to understand, now...
I wanted to write you this letter on your actual birthday. I've been thinking about writing it since you were brand new. I wondered what I would have to say to you when we'd been together for a year. Now, I'm just so overwhelmed by everything that has changed in the past twelve months that it all seems too incredible to have actually happened to me in real life. In real time.
I think I'm always going to be a little bit behind you. I'm still getting used to the idea of this time, but you're owning being one year old. You love it! You're on the verge of walking and talking. You know the kitties by name and even try to play fetch with Ursula. You love to be outside; if you could be outside all the time every day, you'd be so happy you wouldn't know what to do. You want to touch everything, see it up close and find out how it works. You love to push buttons. Almost all music makes you dance, but you bounce up and down in time with Grandad's classical picks.
I'm contantly trying to catch up with you and all the things you can do. Sometimes you move so fast, and I'm afraid you'll get hurt before I even realize what's happened. I know I can't always protect you, but I'm going to keep trying to match your pace, because I don't want to miss a minute of you, duder. Besides, if I'm a little bit behind you, you know I've got your back.
Happy birthday, my sweet milky-milk monkey-breath.
Loving you bunches-and-bunches-to-the-moon,