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At Two Months

The thing that strikes me the most about this picture is not how much different she looked then, nor how much the same she looks now. It's not the way she still sometimes sleeps with her arms raised and hands in little fists. It's not even the swiftness with which the past eight, nearly nine months have passed. All of those things do cross my mind when I look at this picture, but mostly what amazes me is seeing her at 6:10 in the morning, sleeping soundly enough for me to take her picture—or even enter the room—without waking her.

Please

Child, I love you very much. I love your energy, your inquisitiveness, and your impish little smile. I love that you are motivated, that you go after what you want, and I hope that you stay that way when you are older.

But please, at 2:30 in the morning, this is the only thing I ever want to see you doing.

Preparations

Lately when she calls out in the night, it's for Mommy. When she needs help in the bathroom, her voice rings out down the hall, "Mommy!" When she wakes up in the morning, her first request is Mommy. Sometimes she gets me instead, but she just sets her jaw and frowns. "No," she says, "I want Mommy."

I'm not sure exactly what it was she was writing here—the title of her next show, most likely—but I think I see "Daddy" in there. It's nice to know that she thinks of me sometimes.

Breeze

March, two years ago. She was a year and a half old, running, climbing, playing on a cool Easter morning on a huge backyard lawn in Virginia. The breeze on her face made her squint and squeal with laughter; it's something she's always loved, which she has in common with me and her sister, but not her mother or brother. She's bigger today but so far she still fits in my arms. Sometimes when I pick her up I still like to blow into her face, and her eyes sparkle and her manic little giggle warbles, she takes a breath to blow back at me and I quickly blow again, a little puff into her open mouth and she shrieks in delight, covering my lips with her hands and blowing back, blowing back, blowing back, her breath still sweet as a baby's, her joy still just as radiant and unguarded.

Cooperation

He really started noticing the camera when he was about three. That is, he'd seen it before, but that's the age when he really started to understand what it meant, and that I was looking at him. I don't know that it was self-consciousness, exactly, though that came too, eventually. But sometimes he didn't want to play along, and so he began to hide himself. He would duck his head down, or sometimes simply close his eyes in protest. Back then, it came with a scowl.

That was when I started asking his permission to take the pictures.

Nowadays, he will agree or disagree to being in a picture. Sometimes he will come along grudgingly, sometimes with enthusiasm. Sometimes not at all. Just before I took this picture, I told him that the light was really nice, and asked him if he would sit up so I could take a picture. He said OK, and closed his eyes. I asked him if he was sure it was OK, and he patiently said yes, so I clicked the shutter.

Shortly afterwards, a mischievous grin stole across his face and he pulled his pants down, shoving his back side toward the lens. "Take a picture of that!" he shouted gleefully.

So I did.

He said it was his favorite picture ever.

Transition

Juliette sometimes looks at photos and says that his feet look like mine. His toes haven't quite lost that round, chubby, baby toe-ness, not yet. But his feet are getting longer and narrower.

Last night he decided that he wanted to take a shower—I think he was tired of waiting for his sister to finish her chores. He doesn't do this often yet, but he will. And then this kind of picture—of which I must have hundreds—will get fewer and farther between. The girls will still be taking baths for a while, of course. I suppose that softens the blow a bit, but each child is an individual, and parenting each one is its own story. Having younger kids doesn't really make me miss the oldest's littleness any less.

Collection

"Dinner is just about ready," I say. "It's time to clean up and come inside."

"OK!" she says.

A few minutes later I return. She is stooped over in the middle of lawn, picking up leaves one by one. The yard is still littered with toys.

"Eve, come on," I say. "You can play with the leaves some other time. You have to clean up and come in to dinner now."

"No! I'm not playing!" she insists. "I have to put the leaves in my collection!"

Around the corner, next to the crowd of tricycles and scooters, lies a little pile of yellow and green, fading to brown. She crouches down and places the leaf in her fingers right in the middle.

"Is that your collection?" I ask.

"Yes," she says. She's so proud.

Wrinkles

I don't know why fingers get wrinkly when you've been in the pool or the bath too long. I don't know why she wants to wear her goggles in the pool when she refuses to put her face in the water. There are lots of things I don't know. That's just how it is.

Cairn

They found a worm that had died after the sprinklers had been on. They felt it deserved a proper burial, so they built a little cairn and solemnly stood over it, and said a few words.

Afterwards, he told me I should call this picture "Our friend the dead, bloody worm."

Layers

It is October. A cool morning that settled into a pleasantly warm Saturday afternoon, the way an October Saturday does in San Diego. Around the house, the Halloween decorations have begun going up, and the kids are excited. They have only recently finished being excited about a birthday, and soon they will be excited about Christmas. Every season has its presents or candies to look forward to. Sometimes both.

By this time she is three, but on the wall she is still a baby, and her brother is barely done being a toddler.

There above the dining table she is still a baby today, younger than her baby sister. And—for now—she is the same age as the brother that smiles above the spot where she used to eat her cereal. The brother that eats his cereal in the living room these days is, of course, still her senior.

If the shift in tense is confusing, just stop and consider the layers of "now" that are in that kitchen. An October afternoon. A morning in May. An April weekday as I write this. Whenever it is that you read it. Photography is weird.

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