Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Someday (Annie is Six)

Dear Annie,

On Saturday, for our birthday, I took you in the afternoon to get your first pedicure. You picked out your polish color (pink) and climbed up into the chair next to me. I knew you would love it, and you did: the vibrating massage chair that tickled your back; the warm, bubbly water; the orange pop the receptionist brought you; the fashion magazines; the teeny-tiny flower they painted on your big toe. We decided it would be our birthday tradition.

You are big enough to love grown-up things like pedicures, yet you are so small in the massage chair that you need a pillow to prop you up. And this is how six is for you, so far. In-between. First grade is wiping you out, though I never hear you say anything negative about it. When I ask you what the best part of your day was, you usually say "Writing." You love eating at a table with your friends, playing at recess, hearing new stories from a new teacher. When you come home, though, you are just plain out of everything: coping skills, energy, patience, rational thought. One minute, you are channelling a sassy teenager - "I don't want that! I want PIZZA!" - and the next you are as limp and wordless as a toddler, melting down and clinging to the front of my body when I try to jump-start the bedtime routine. You are six, going on sixteen. You are six, going on sixteen months.

On a related note, you have occasionally been going to bed during the six o'clock hour lately in an attempt to shore you up for the next, long day. We choose your clothes for tomorrow, arrange your stuffed animals just so, and I try to build in some extra time for talking, reading, and snuggling because there are so few minutes in the rest of the day for those things now. You have questions - about the next day, about the weekend, about places on your new globe, about the tomato sauce you tried at the CSA pick-up this week - and I want to talk to you about them. At your first night of catechism on Monday, the deacon talked to all of you about God. "God loves you even more than your mom and dad love you," he said, and you turned to me, eyes narrowed suspiciously: "Is that TRUE?"

"What do you think?" I asked. It is usually what I say when you ask those kinds of questions. You looked hard at me for a minute, then turned back to listen more, to put your head down on my lap and let me scratch your back, again simultaneously six and sixteen and sixteen months.

Tonight when I tucked you in we talked more about love because of a conversation I had with Jemma while you were at school. She's been watching the recent post-school meltdowns and dramatics but not saying much about it, so I wasn't sure how much she was processing. While she and I were having lunch today, she said something adorably ridiculous ("Daddy's underwear isn't what makes him beautiful.")

"Jemma," I said, "I love you so much. I'm so lucky to be your mommy."

"You love me all the time," she said.

"Of course I do," I said.

Then she said, "But not Annie. You don't love Annie all the time," and my heart broke a little as I tried to figure out how to explain it. We talked about how I might not like the choices you were making or the words you were using, but that I loved you (both of you) every single day since before you were born, no matter what, because I am your mommy.

So tonight I talked with you about that. I wanted to be sure you were clear about just how much I love you, both while you're looking like the happiest girl in the world as you blow the candles out on a cake surrounded by family and birthday gifts, and while you're yelling your frustrations from behind your bedroom door. We decided to be kinder to each other tomorrow, and I hope we can, because I think we have a long, winding road ahead of us in this department.

Right now: you still love your dolls. You still hold my hand sometimes when we walk to school, and you always rush to give me a last "kiss-and-hug!" just before you follow your class line into the building. You still have to stand on a stool to spit your toothpaste into the sink and sit in a booster seat in the car. But you do your hair by yourself every morning. You want to make tomato sauce for dinner. You can read most of the birthday cards people gave to you. Your world is widening, but not too much.

On your birthday, after the presents and the cake and the pedicures, I tucked you in and I read you the book that stopped me in my tracks at the bookstore weeks ago. When I brought it home and Daddy read it, he couldn't believe that I thought I was going to be able to read it to you without crying. I did, though.

Someday, by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds

One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.

One day the first snowflakes fell, and I held you up and watched them melt on your baby skin.

One day we crossed the street and you held my hand tight.

Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child.

Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream, and I dream too . . .

That someday you will dive into the cool, clear water of a lake.

Someday you will walk into a deep wood.

Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine.

Someday you will run so fast and so far your heart will feel like fire.

Someday you will swing high - so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.

Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.

Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.

Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you.

Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small.

Someday you will feel a small weight against your strong back.

Someday I will watch you brushing your child's hair.

Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun.

And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.

For now, I am amazed that more than six years have passed since the Saturday afternoon when I first saw your tiny, perfect face. Six years ago just now, you were swaddled up in a white cradle at the end of our bed in another house entirely. You wore a pink knit cap on your head. It was your first night home from the hospital, and I barely knew who you were. But I was waiting to see what you needed from me next, wanting to give it to you, loving you no matter what. That hasn't changed.



  1. What a gift you have given to Annie in this post. We have that book, too. I can't read it without crying.