Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jemma is Three

Dear Jemma,

You are three. You woke up this morning and stumbled out of your room, wearing the red nightgown you got for Christmas and have barely taken off since, your cheeks all rosy and your hair a mess. We hugged you and wished you a happy birthday, and you looked pleased. You chose oatmeal for your birthday breakfast, and while you were waiting for it to cool, you kept asking, "Am I three? Right now? Is it my birthday?" When we assured you that it was, you followed with a sly, "Can I open presents? Can I eat cake?"

We got you some Playmobil figures, a Melissa & Doug cookie tray, and the book Pinkalicious, which you asked me to read instantly. We sat on your bedroom floor and read. You turned to me when it was done and said, "Thank you for the book, mommy." You are always doing that: giving hugs, kisses, and grateful words without prompting. You run up while I am washing dishes or stirring something on the stove and give my leg a squeeze. You give hugs and kisses to your friends and family when they come and go. You run right up to guests in our house and answer their questions, say hello, show them your stuff. You are so thoughtful, giving, considerate, and kind - almost to a fault, because when Annie asks you for something that you have (food, a toy, a doll), you usually give it to her, and she's come to expect that this is how the world works.

And though this is not about Annie but about you, we have been going through this year's photos and videos and some of my very favorite shots are of the two of you together - eating ice cream, making snow angels, building sand castles, picking peaches, holding hands in the garden, dancing in the living room, wearing all manner of dress-up clothes. And I am so glad that she has you, and you have her, and that you are growing into two of the best friends the other will ever have.

Along those lines, there's a lyric in a Joshua Radin song that I heard just this morning and made me think of you: "I like the way you’re not afraid/You’ve got the world planned in your mind/People say you cannot do it/But they don’t know a friend like you." You, truly, are not afraid. In fact, you're so wide open to the world, so prepared to be charmed by what you find that you are almost always delighted.

Of course, there is another lyric from a poem called "That Little Girl:"

There was a little girl
And she had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead,
When she was good,
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.

This one fits you, too, from time to time, because you are three now, and because you can go from delighted to devastated in one fell swoop if play time has to end, if you have to get dressed, if we have to turn off Sesame Street, if Annie is making a noise you do not like, if your shoe is too tight, if I try to help you buckle your carseat . . . in short, if any little thing is not going your way. You particularly hate to wear any clothes that are not a dress and inform us that you "don't look good in this" or "look like a boy" on the rare days when the dresses are all dirty and you are forced to wear pants of any kind.

You love to brush your teeth, chew gum, eat any type of melted cheese, dance, swim, help me cook and bake, play with your (many) babies, and do anything that Annie is doing. You hate to be hurried, have your hair done, get out of the tub, walk Annie to school on cold mornings, have any food on your plate that you do not like, be cold or hot or in any way uncomfortable. Your favorite color is still purple, but pink is a close runner-up. Your favorite food is probably (sadly) "treats," but you also love almost all fruit (minus the skin), black beans, peas, Boursin, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and anything bread-based.

You weigh 25 pounds. You. Are. Tiny. I watch your little body swinging through the air on the rope at gymnastics; I see your tiny little bottom perched on the toilet; I hear your adorable, screechy little voice raised in happiness or frustration and it always makes me smile, so much spunk coming from such a tiny package.

We went last week to pick out your cake for today's little party. Standing in the grocery store, you on my hip, Annie whining impatiently at my side, we paged through the bakery display book until you found the picture you wanted. I thought for sure you'd choose something princess-y, but you were immediately sure: "I want this one," you pointed, and it was a Dora cake. On the display page, the cake had been filled in, "Happy Birthday, Jemma!" and I did a double-take, seeing your name in print like that in a cake book. For a second, I think I was even a little confused - but that's OUR name! - before it sunk in. Because when I hear that name, all I think of is you, you, you and the way you surprised us with your early entry into the world three years ago today, the way your hair stuck straight up all over, the way we looked and looked at you before finally choosing your name. Because Christmastime is now inextricably linked with the memory of you bursting into our snowy world, changing everything. Because now, three whole years later, I can't imagine life without your enthusiasm, affection, questions, noise, and energy.

Happy birthday, Jemma, to a sweet little girl who has gotten so, so big.


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