Saturday, March 13, 2010

Attempting to Imitate Kelly Corrigan

Dear Annie,

You turned five-and-a-half on Thursday. Half birthdays are occasions that previously went unnoticed in our house, but this one somehow became a big deal. I think you are becoming more conscious of the world, and your place in it, and because some of the other kindergartners are starting to turn six, you wanted to feel like you were keeping up with them.

Anyway, it was a pretty great day in spite of the fact that I woke up at 3:14 a.m. for no reason at all and never got back to sleep. When my boot camp carpool arrived at 5:40, I was sitting in the quiet dark in the living room, just waiting, having had two cups of coffee already. And when I returned to the house a little after 7:00, you and Jemma were already sitting, disheveled, at the breakfast table.

I walked you to school. You ran ahead to walk with Mia, laughing and skipping. You had a field trip to the symphony for school, and then you went home with Kate, a happy coincidence that let me sneak in a 20-minute nap while Jemma slept after lunch. I woke up, stretched, and then opened my new book, Lift by Kelly Corrigan, devouring it whole until Jemma woke.

The next I saw you was around 3:00, when I came to pick you up from your dance rehearsal. You and your class were up on stage, tapping, hands on hips, to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." When you were done, I took you and Jemma to Jersey Junction for a half-birthday treat, caramel ice cream and Skittles on a rainy Thursday afternoon. And when we got home from that, you and Jemma decided to "make dinner fancy" as a surprise for Daddy and set about cleaning up the house, making place cards, setting the table, and bringing me candles to light as I cooked the chicken. When we heard his car in the driveway, you gathered me and Jemma in the dining room, where we hid until you gave the signal to jump out and yell "Surprise!" Some days go magically like this. Some don't.

In Lift, Kelly Corrigan writes about how few memories people have from their childhood outside of the stories they are told and the photographs they see. I think she's right. I barely remember anything before being in pre-school at age 4, and even those memories are murky and involve mundane details like the song "Where is Thumbkin" and drinking apple juice out of small, waxy Dixie cups. I can remember my kindergarten classroom, but I can't remember much of anything that happened inside it except for the moment in the spring when my friend Carrie's dad arrived at the classroom door to tell her that she had a new baby sister.

So I doubt you'll remember turning five and a half. You probably won't remember the next day either, when you stood stubbornly on the sidewalk, unmoving, and waged a small battle after school about walking home by yourself "like a big kid" that ended with me gritting my teeth in anger and pushing you down into the jogging stroller, strapping you in while you kicked the bar below your feet and hoped aloud that it would break. You won't remember the walk our family took last night, wearing rain boots but not coats - you and Jemma singing on the path and stopping at each puddle to fish in it with long sticks - or the 80's dance party we had during dinner, Queen and Night Ranger and Wham! blasting in the kitchen and Jemma standing up on her chair, giggling.

I am trying to remember it all, though: the way you earnestly asked last week, "How do you get FOUR babies?"; the way all your play with your sister involves first choosing new names for yourselves (Ella, Elizabeth, Isabella, Izzika (?), Emily); the way you loved how your hair crimped after I let you go to bed with it wet and braided on Monday night; the way you look when you're wearing tap shoes and a leotard up on a stage under a spotlight; the way your tongue pokes out the side of your mouth from the effort when you help me peel carrots into the kitchen sink.

Kelly Corrigan writes, "I don't know when you'll read this. Maybe when you're a teenager? No, probably later, when you're on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you that long."

I've been loving you for five and a half years now, Annie. I love you.

1 comment:

  1. I think Kelly Corrigan is right, too. And, I think it's a wonderful gift you are giving your kids - memories through your beautiful writing! Thanks for sharing.