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.
A year ago, when this photo was taken, her hair was longer and they were both smaller. But already they barely fit into the bath tub together. How is it that they still manage to squeeze in there, side by side, today? Somehow, they do. Not for too much longer, I think. But perhaps by the time he's finally outgrown bathtime with his sister, the baby will be ready to take his place.
She had spent the whole afternoon playing outside. "They're presents!" she said.
A few days later it rained unexpectedly. (Here, rain is never expected.) She cried to see her presents erased.
"Honey, chalk is not forever," I said. "You can draw new presents tomorrow. That's what makes chalk fun"
She didn't understand, and just kept crying, broken-hearted that the work of an afternoon was destroyed.
(Because, to a three-year-old, an afternoon is a lifetime.)
But, by the time the pavement had dried, so had her tears. She was on to other things.
Today is your birthday. I know that you are aware of this, because for the past two months you've been saying "I want that for my birthday" whenever you see a commercial or a toy or an article of clothing that you like. I have a suspicion that you won't remember everything you've asked for—or maybe it's just a hope.
Since your last birthday you started pre-school. You've impressed everyone at your school with your personality and your intellect; the director likes to say that you're "tiny and mighty." I think that's apt. You're smaller than just about everyone you meet, but you have spunk, and you make your opinions known. (Sometimes, maybe, Mommy and I might wish that you could be a little less, shall we say, forceful in your opinions, but we also love that you have so much to say.) You hold your own, even amongst kids who are bigger and older.
But you're also still our sweet girl, and nowhere does that show more than in how you are with your baby sister. Every night before you go to bed, you insist on getting to hold her, and all day you pepper her with kisses. You try to comfort her when she's fussy, sing to her in the car, and just generally do your best to take care of her. It makes me so proud.
We have our challenges, too, which is only to be expected for a girl about to be three. You're growing into yourself, bouncing off the boundaries we put in place for you. You're not always thrilled with me and Mommy. But every day I'm thankful to have such a funny, smart, affectionate, wonderful girl in my life. I love you, sweetie.
Soundtrack: "Love and Oceans" by The Dimes. Used with permission.
Little fingers, how did you wind up there? Were you reaching for something as your eyelids drooped? It almost looks like you are pushing your pillow away, holding it back from your face. Of course, by the time I come back, after putting my camera away, you'll have moved. I wonder if you'll ever sleep still. But then, I suppose I don't, either.