I took a photo of you on Thursday in your new snow boots, a novelty Christmas gift that quickly turned into a necessity this past week. You stood outside on the sidewalk and gave me all manner of non-smiles until I reached the appropriate threat level, my toes starting to lose feeling in the process of finagling. A few moments later I looked at the photos and remembered the pictures I took of you six months ago when you turned four… also in boots, this time for the rain. Another present opened and received in great joy, a necessity (in your mind) for a successful four year old party in the fountains. You celebrate the turning of whole years and half years in the most extreme ways – temperatures, weather conditions, precipitation, footwear choices.
What a fitting metaphor for you, this study in (extreme) contrasts. I sometimes read back through all of those letters I’ve written to you and I laugh because nothing really changes. Sure, you get taller, you have more teeth, you can write letters and crisscross balance beams and make rubber band bracelets, but any one of those tasks or any other can either lull you into quiet, sustained concentration and focus, or hurl you headlong into the crackling firestorm of despair – loudly vocalizing your displeasure at the absurd unfairness of all creation and your role within it. I’m convinced if you knew any swear words you would surely use them. Which reminds me of a funny story from these past holidays…
You started noticing nativity scenes around town and on our travels, and you had a very unique way of pointing them out to us. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” you would exclaim, and not in any sort of reverent way, but wholly in the manner of a swearing Irish character in a Frank McCourt memoir. You utter it at the same volume level as you announce each passing American flag – loudly. Just after Christmas this year we pulled into a parking space adjacent to a small town square in Iowa, decorated with the stars and stripes, jolly St. Nick and a manger scene. As you exited the truck for the sidewalk you let it fly. “An American Flag! A Santa Claus! Well… Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” and it sounded just like you might imagine it would, reading it here now.
I get the added bonus of almost twenty-four hours together with you – just the two of us. Oh, how delightful it’s been. When everything slows down a bit, and the corners are rounded, and the distractions are removed – my, how easy you are. Willing to pull out a deck of cards and stomp me in a game of War, patient (and thorough) enough to study the diagrams and build four different bridge types without correcting my technique or involvement, funny enough to strike a pose in the coffee shop during the thirty seconds that it took me to top off my coffee, sending the entire restaurant into giggles while you didn’t even crack a smile until the joke was up.
You push every single button you can, and you are completely, 100% worth it. Happy half birthday my sweet, sweet girl.