I may be a writer but I’m not a poet, not nearly.
I have neither the eloquence nor the skill to convey what is in my heart today and for this I hope you’ll forgive me. I want you to understand that my failure here is neither from lack of inclination nor lack of trying. It’s simply that it’s so hard to think when all you can do is feel.
I’ve started this letter and erased it a dozen times at least. I want to tell the entire story of your life; every moment of the 365 days since you first lay on my chest and I shakily whispered, “I’m your mommy. Nice to meet you.”
I want to lay out all my wishes for you. All my hopes and blessings. I want to tell you how much you’ve changed me, how much you’ve taught me in a year. Perhaps I’ve learned more in this year than in my entire lifetime. I could fill a book with it.
But it would be nothing you’d want to read. It would be just one more reason for you to roll your eyes in later years and go ma-aaaaaaa And from what I hear, we don’t need more of those things, do we.
The task is too great, my feelings too overpowering today, this day. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Another day, the words might come. But today, I can only tell you what I can tell you and that will have to be enough.
One year and roughly nine months ago, I entered a world I never thought I’d have access to. Phrases like Barney’s sale and margarita with salt were erased from my vocabulary and replaced with expressions like cervical incompetence and mucus plug. My body spread and stretched, my organs nudged one another over to make room for the new life. An amazing anatomical dance just for you.
Thirty-two weeks into my pregnancy, a masseuse laid her palms against my swollen belly and smiled. “Sometimes I get a feeling about a child,” she said, squeezing her eyes shut and pressing gently into my flesh. “If I may…this one has a wonderful sense of humor.”
I knew she was right. I knew it when we named you for the Greek Muse of comedy. I knew it even before you chose to be born on the President’s birthday, the one day we begged you–begged you–not to come. But you just laughed at us and stepped out from behind the curtains onto the stage that is the world.
You are your father’s daughter.
I loved the idea of you, but the actual you, well you were a stranger. For 41.5 weeks you had grown inside me, pressed your limbs against my belly, hiccupped daily, kicked my ribs, made me pee sixteen times an hour. You were all I thought about, every night, every day. I wrote to you. I sang to you as best I could. I read to you. I made brilliant, grandiose plans for you, I dreamed of you, I awoke thinking of you and nothing but you. I assumed all of those things add up to knowing a person.
But when I looked at you, I knew I had been mistaken.
And so my first thought that early July morning was, “who is this?
I don’t know these eyes, I don’t know this nose, I don’t know these ears, I don’t know this cry. Who is this little girl lying on my chest, trying to make sense of the world, the fluorescent lights, the women in scrubs, the tearful grandparents, the beaming father who can only put down the camera long enough to scoop you up and kiss your forehead? Who is she and who is she going to be? Who is she going to be to me?”
My second thought was, “I really want a peanut butter sandwich.”
The second night in the hospital, we were alone together. I was terrified. Excited. Panicked. Happy. And then in the hours that I stared at you (it was just impossible to take my eyes off you, even for a minute) it struck me–you weren’t a stranger at all. It was another time, another place; a relationship I can’t quite put my finger on. But it was real and some piece of me was struck with the recognition.
That’s when I realized, the face may be unfamiliar but the relationship is not new at all. Teacher and student, together again.
The student being me.
I close my eyes, trying so hard to see the combination of letters and commas, periods and spaces that will bring your personality to life, but everything just seems fuzzy and off. A cloudy alphabet soup.
I see images instead: You waving at a waitress. You laughing at a tree. You smiling at a hurried businessman on the street, making him forget the cell phone at his ear and the attitude he wears like armor–just long enough for him to stop talking mid-sentence and smile back. A brief moment of Thalia’s attention is enough to change someone’s entire heart.
Oh how I want you to stay this person. This person who isn’t afraid to clap for a mailbox or laugh at a dog. But I know I can’t make you. I can only allow you to be who you are at that moment.
I see your six teeth and the hair that’s just starting to be long enough to curl in random places when you come out of the bath. I see your perfect pale skin and the smooth soles of your feet. I see your bright, curious eyes behind eyelashes I envy.
I see you grabbing my nose in the morning, poking my face or pulling my hair until I agree to start the day.
I see your face covered with yogurt. Or sweet potatoes. Or wet, soggy specks of Cheerios goo.
I see you chasing the dog under her chair, crawling nearly as fast as she can run. I see you shrieking DAT! at the cat, grabbing at her as she passes, then slowly opening a moist palm to discover a handful of fine black fur.
I see you laughing at the recessed lighting in the kitchen ceiling, an inside joke between you and the 40 watt bulbs.
I see you jumping. Jumping when Grandma walks in the door or Daddy plays your Belle and Sebastian song for you. Jumping like it’s the single best thing in the whole entire world and you can do it higher and longer and with far more passion than anyone anywhere ever.
I see you laying your head on my chest when the fatigue is just too much to fight, even for you, the amazing non-sleeping baby. I see myself lowering my nose to your head and inhaling, wanting so badly to remember the warmth, the smell, the feeling.
And always I see you smiling.
In the journal I kept for you while I was pregnant, I signed every post a different way. Love, your ever-expanding mommy. Love, your very nauseous mommy. Love, your excited but totally freaking out mommy.
I have to admit, I like the idea of just signing this letter
I’m realizing that sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes that’s everything.
And so are you.
Happy birthday Bungo.
find many beautiful comments on this post here. I still haven’t figured out how to import them.