Jay turned one today. He is figuring out how to walk, slowly and deliberately, taking a few steps and losing his balance, tumbling down and then getting up and trying again. Every day he gets a little better at it. He is so different from his sister, who took three steps, took 6 weeks off, and then suddenly found her feet in Winnipeg and never crawled again.
Each year on Elle’s birthday, I write her a letter which I seal and mark “Do not open until….” with a date eighteen years in the future. My friend Joan Wise’s father did this for her, so that starting on her eighteenth birthday she had a communication from her dad from almost two decades earlier. I want to do this for Jay too. I feel an urgency about making things “fair” between my two kids, though so far it’s impossible to treat them the same. They’re not the same. My love for them is certainly equal in that both loves are infinite and boundless, but they are different people at different stages of their lives. For instance, my parents called today to find out how Jay’s party was last night. “Did he like it?” my mother asked.
“Yes, I guess so,” I said. Jay likes everything pretty much. “But really the night was about Elle and her cousin W. They spent the entire evening shouting joyfully. W wanted to talk about the Beatles and Elle wanted to hold his hand. Also they wanted to find as many ways as they could to talk about poop without losing their dessert privileges.” They blew out Jay’s candles and played with his toys. Of course he didn’t seem to mind.
At church today, the service was all about Arnold. It turned into a Quaker memorial, with people standing up and sharing stories. My friend MF told me a story that Elle’s babysitter had shared with her. Last week, on Tuesday, Elle said to the babysitter, “Our friend Arnold died.”
“I know,” said the babysitter. “He was my friend too. Are you sad, Elle?”
“Because,” Elle said. “When I close my eyes, I can still see him.” And she scrunched up her face. “You try it.”
The babysitter obliged. “You’re right, Elle. I can still see him!”
“See?” said Elle. “It works. He isn’t gone.”
Baby boy, may you always be fearless. May you always laugh the way you do when your sister says, “poop!” May you always holler when you need more attention and then make sweet contented sounds when we rightly turn your way. And may you always know just how hugely you are loved.