Monday, April 19, 2010
It's an April Saturday night. You wanted me to lay in bed next to you tonight while you read me some Dr. Seuss books. You are just learning to read. We read "The Foot Book" and part of "Hop on Pop." It was right after Ed, Ted, and Ned in Bed that you said, "I'm tired. Let's read the rest tomorrow."
You jumped up out of bed saying "I'm gonna go get my bookmark." You had made a rectangular bookmark cut from the middle of a plain white piece of paper earlier in the day. You had colored it purple and decorated it. Just one of a million art projects you and your sister create on any given day.
You remembered exactly where you had put your bookmark from hours earlier - in the middle of a religious coloring book that my cousin had sent you all for Easter. Your memory often surprises me. You are the only person in our family that when you lose something, I can say, "Try to remember where you left it Phoebes. Think back in your mind to the last time you had it." And then you stand and think and then a light bulb goes off in your brain and you run and get whatever it is. That always amazes me and Daddy.
I was lying on your bed holding the place where we left off when you bounced back into the room and put the bookmark in its place. You slipped the books onto your bookshelf and hopped into bed next to me. You love your bed. You love feeling cozy. And to be honest, as your mama, there is not much that makes me feel more like I'm succeeding as a mother as when I tuck you into bed at night and leave you feeling snuggled and safe.
We were lying next to each other just holding hands and then you asked me for a "baa-bee." Yep, on most nights I still warm up some milk for you and you sip it out of a sippy cup. It's the only time you still drink from a sippy cup. Even though you are such a big girl, this bedtime ritual reminds me of how little you still are. You still crave the comfort of warm milk before bed and well, as your go-with-the-flow mama about these types of things, I don't mind at all.
I know one day, unexpectedly, you will no longer ask for one just like your sister did one day with her pacifiers. She was 5 too then. I had brought her the pacifiers like every other night of her life and on that one evening, she stated clearly, "Mama, I don't need them anymore." And then I left the room and cried. So I suspect this will happen for you soon too. This letting go of the last of your "baby/toddler" habits and you will officially become my big girl.
I guess that's why I am feeling inspired to write this to you. To cement with words your 5-year-old you because 5-year-old girls are just the most magical creatures on the planet. It's a bridge year it seems. This year between 4 and 6. You are straddling two worlds. You are living deep in the forest with the fairies and the ponies but you are also sitting in a classroom in a uniform making new friends and beginning a life that is only yours.
Phoebes, you are the only one of our children who entered this world in a whisper. Your arrival was calm and peaceful in a quiet hospital room with late afternoon summer sun streaming in. You gracefully slipped out in your dainty 8 lb 12 oz way. And that is just you Phoebes. Dainty and strong.
You are my wildflower.
You float through a room with a bounce and a lightness that is mesmerizing. Your mind is constantly whirring away with stories and songs and thoughts and your heart is always overflowing with emotion. It doesn't take much to make you laugh or cry or scream. Your mood changes as each second ticks by. But whatever mood it is, it is filled with passion.
You make me laugh with your smiles and your frowns. We have a game where I ask you to go from a smile to a frown because only you can do it so extremely so instantly. You are wildly unpredictable. You seek to be the center of attention and at the same time, you will quietly remove yourself from the action. As chaos swirls around the house, I will often find you in your room playing with horses and dolls and fairies whispering to yourself fantastical story lines.
You are a dare-devil beauty. A skinned knee, a face plant off a skateboard, a busted lip and bent teeth on a playground, a dislocated elbow - you have cried, yes. But your bravery always wins out. You are tough. You are strong. And yet your heart is as soft as they come.
You feel too deeply for such a young soul. Your mind can't possibly figure out why your heart feels as it does. You can't stand to see your sister sad, your brother hurt, your mama mad. Especially if I'm upset at you. I can't treat you like I do your sister. You melt under harsh words directed at you. I do my best to remember this but in the chaos of daily life, I often screw up. But one look in your tear-filled eyes tells me I have overstepped the boundaries of you.
I will keep trying to get better at this, Phoebes. I should be better at this. We have similar hearts, you and me. But I also have the stubborn exterior of my father. You do not. Your heart oozes out of every pore in your skin. There is no barrier protecting you from the harshness of the world. Although some may see that as a potential weakness, I see it as a strength. You are firmly planted in this life because you love life. Just like I do.
You love to cuddle with your mama and as we lay in bed arm in arm tonight I said as I often do, "I love you Phoebes."
And you asked, "Will you love me forever?"
You know the answer to that question but I said, "Of course Phoebes. I love you forever and ever and ever."
And then you said, "I want to be with my mama forever and ever."
"We will be together forever and ever Phoebes." And then after a slight pause I said with a smile, "Until you get really big and become a teenager and then you won't want to hang out with me that much."
"Oh no, no no! Not that's true mama! I will always always want to be with you! Even when I'm big!!" And you clutched my hand, rolled over on your side and squeezed me tight.
I hugged you fiercely and when you rolled back onto your pillow, I looked at your small delicate hand in mine. Your fingers are so thin. They look exactly as I imagined they would look when I first saw them when you were newborn. Daddy and I marveled at your long, thin fingers on the day you were born and we said to each other, I wonder if she'll be a musician. She has the fingers of a musician. Well, you don't play an instrument yet but you have music in your soul, there is no doubt about that. A day has barely gone by without me hearing you sing a made-up song to yourself or watching you dance on the back deck to a tune only you can hear.
I got up from the bed to go prepare your warm milk. When I returned I dimmed the lights and jumped back into bed next to you. As you sipped your milk, your eyes started to flutter close and I watched as sleep gradually took hold. I love how when you begin to fall asleep, your mouth will do the exact same thing it used to do when you would nurse and fall asleep. It's like a little vibrating, sucking motion that your lips do instinctively. All of my babies have done that. I wonder if all babies do. Pretty soon, you stopped sipping, the cup fell to the side and your grasp loosened.
Sweet dreams, I whispered.
I stroked your cheek and stared at your 5-year-old face trying to memorize what it looked like when you told me you wanted to be with me forever. And my eyes welled with tears as they often do when I stop and ponder the miracle of you. I touched your rounded cheeks so soft and babyish still. I ran my finger along your curved eyebrow and pushed your blonde wisps alongside your head. I felt as I if I could stare at you forever right then. One of the few times when time is literally standing still for me. Frozen in awe and crazy love.
You have a few more months of being 5 and although you are excited for your birthday as you always are, I am hanging onto you right here and right now. The age when you are learning to read and count and the world is literally opening up before your eyes; the age when a pair of princess slippers and a crown can transport you to a castle; the age where your imagination rules the day; the age when tears can turn to laughter in a split second; the age when twirling and jumping and swinging is all you really need; the age when clearing your plate and cleaning your room can make you beam with pride; the age when all you can imagine is wanting to be with me forever.
Phoebes, you humble me with your capacity to love and be loved. You make me want to be a better mama and a better person. Your name means radiance and light. I thank God for the light you shine in my life every single day.
I love you, my 5-year-old wildflower, forever and ever.
• Photos taken on a November afternoon for no reason at all - just because you are five.