Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letter to Marigold, Age 2

Dear Goldie-locks,

When you turned two a few months ago, we got you a tiny shopping cart to push around. We knew you'd like it because you were constantly filling up other things with assorted items and pushing them around the kitchen: things like flour buckets and laundry baskets and cardboard boxes. This shopping cart, we hoped, would curb those other, unauthorized, carting activities just a bit. Abraham put the cart together for you secretly on the back porch, and then since it was too big to wrap, we draped a towel and a blanket over it and told you to find out what was inside. I love the picture of you midway through the reveal. You've got such a happy, anticipatory look on your face, but you've paused to look back at the rest of us for—what, approval? reassurance? or maybe just to make sure we're all watching?—before you get on with your task. Whatever this thing is, your face seems to say, I already know I'm going to love it, and I want to make sure you're all fully invested in loving it with me! 
It seems like such a good depiction of who you are right now: the happy, excited, headlong rush toward what's next—along with the seemingly contradictory desire to make sure you're not doing it all alone. But I don't think it is contradictory. It's part of why I love two-year-olds: for all their famed "let-ME-do-it"-ness, what they really mean is "let-me-do-it-while-YOU-watch-and-marvel." And you, especially, seem to love being part of a group; one of the kids. (Probably a good desire for a sixth child to have.) When you get out the magnetic drawing board from the Church Bag (which you aren't supposed to do, but you do it several times a day anyway)—or when you gleefully draw on some paper, any paper, with the school markers (which you aren't supposed to get out either)—you inevitably hold it up in triumph and proclaim "I drew Baymax!" —or an airplane or a penguin or some other thing you've seen the others draw.
And your pursuit of this "I'm one of the kids" ideal seems to drive many of your decisions. It's not just the markers you get out without authorization. It's…well…everything. You aren't one of those destructive two-year-olds who makes messes just for the wild joy of it, but you very definitely know what you want and where it is, and are willing to persist until you get it. One of the first phrases you learned to say was "up high"—as in, "Put those markers up high so Marigold can't get them!" You've heard that so often that you sometimes walk around the room, pointing up at things and commenting, "Scissors up high." "Birdies up high." (Malachi's ceramic birds.) "Stories up high." (The pop-up books.) And so forth. You don't seem devastated by it or anything. You seem to be just…noting it. And then, when the opportunity arises and no one is around, you'll act. How many times I've found the bathroom stools out by the bookshelves (stacked on top of each other to make them that crucial inch taller)—or a handful of tiny fingerprints in the edge of the cake—or the hair clipper attachments out of their case and lined up end-to-end in the hallway—or a bunch of little nibbling bites out of a peach or a banana or a block of cheese—I can't even count. 
Daddy sent me a text the other day: "This little girl is the monkiest monkey that ever monkied." And I have to admit he's right! You are sweet. You are usually obedient, when a direct order is given. But like a little monkey, you are resourceful and too clever by half! You take it as your absolute, unassailable, God-given right to do everything the other children do, and you feel completely justified in going to any lengths toward that end. "Goldie! Oh DEAR! You're not supposed to poke your fingers into the cake! No, no!" I'll say, shocked (though I don't know why I am, any longer). And you'll look at me with a slightly furrowed brow and say, more in sorrow than in anger, "Yes. Ah DO wanta fingers cake." 
You also don't appear to be aware that you are not authorized to instruct your siblings in the finer points of (your version of) the Family Rule Book. "Ah-ky!" ["Malachi!"] you scolded the other day, when Malachi was howling over a pinched finger. "You don't hafta cry-bout dat!" Or, "Dai-sy! Say AMEN!"—after the prayer. If Teddy burps after nursing, you say "Pardon ME!" in scandalized tones, on his behalf. You dispense your wisdom judiciously, though. You give praise when it's warranted. My favorite thing in the world is when one of your brothers is practicing the piano in the morning, and they finish a song, and you call out from your bed in a loud, sleepy voice, "Dood job, Abey!" or "Niiiice! I yuv-dat song!"
You're sweet with Theodore. Really sweet. You sing to him and leave little toys (many, many lined-up little toys) in his bassinet, and when you're not being sweet to him you're being sweet to some other baby: your elephant, or Daisy's penguin, or your Taggie, or a little car. I guess it doesn't much matter WHAT it is, but if it's something you can carry, you can pretty much bet it's going to end up bundled up and bouncing to the music of the baby bouncy-seat eventually, swaddled with a blanket, being kissed and "shhh-shhh-shhh"-ed while you hold it and rock back and forth. 

Your favorite book right now is one of my favorites too, Babies by Gyo Fujikawa. Best of all, you love the pages contrasting the babies being naughty with the babies being good. You insist that I read it the same way every time, in appropriately horrified tones, pointing to each picture in turn: "No, no, baby, we don't tear pages from the book! Oh dear, no, we don't fight over the doll! No, no, baby, don't spill the milk! Oh dear, not supposed to eat jam from the jar!" Sometimes I notice you, silent and wide-eyed, mouthing along with me, "No, no, baby!" And then you beam the biggest, most relieved smile in the world when I turn the page and get to: "Oh, yes, yes, we do be careful with books! Yes, yes, baby, good sharing the doll! Yes, yes, we are careful with our milk! Good, good baby; wait for Mommy to give you the jam." You nod and settle yourself down deeper into my lap and sigh that satisfied little-girl sigh. Ah, yes. Babies doing what they're supposed to. Your virtuous soul is content.
You love company, and you love Daddy and me. I can't say it isn't flattering. The minute I set foot on the stairs to go down to the living room and kitchen, you come flying out away from wherever you're playing, like a whirlwind, yelling "WAIT-WAIT-WAIT-WAIT!" And then, "HOLD-HAND-WAIT-I-HOLD-YOUR-HAND!" When you catch up and calm down a bit, you usually correct that to a more polite (one might even say overpolite), "May I PLEASE hold your HAND-please?" (with the "please"s so high in your vocal register, they come out as squeaks). Heaven forbid I have my hands full already, carrying the laundry down or something—though luckily, I can usually get you to be content with just holding on to my shirt in that case. You come flying out the front door to wave goodbye in the same way, whenever anybody leaves. And you come running and yelling "ABEY HOME!" "MOMMY HOME!" "DADDY HOME!"—no matter who it is or how short of a time they were away.
But then…you don't always need an audience. You seem to be content in your own company too, quietly getting out of bed before your sisters are awake and playing (with self-narration, most of the time). You have a cute little serious look of concentration when you're doing something hard, and a sweet little "Did it!" that you say quietly to yourself when you've finally succeeding in stuffing the big bouncy ball into the small cup, or whatever other triumph-that-will-require-us-to-pry-something-out-with-a-screwdriver. 
You love manipulating things, sorting them, lining them up and dealing them out. When I walk into a room and see that all the plates have been gotten out of the cupboard and set onto the carpet and one Jenga block is set carefully in the very middle of each plate…well, I know you've been there, that's all.
You're not wild. Not rambunctious. You've got a very careful, thoughtful side. But…exuberant? Maybe that's the word I'm looking for. Everything you do is so joyful, exuberant, alive. 
Just this morning, Daddy asked me, "Why is this Goldie-girl so BRIGHT and VIBRANT?" You are! You're a bright, happy, vivid little Marigold, bursting with color and happiness, and overflowing with personhood. I don't know how your name could be right-er for you. I love it when you drop something from your highchair: "MY-BREAD-MY-BREAD; Aaaa, my bread!" you exclaim dramatically—or when your shoe comes off on the way to church: "MY-SHOE-MY-SHOE-MY-SHOE-MY-SHOE"—continuing for however long it takes us, as we keep dragging you along by the hand, to realize that you're not just dawdling and prattling on about some random thing, but that you are actually conveying information we need to pay attention to.
I'm sorry about that, and we DO try not to ignore you TOO often, but you just do so much TALKING right now, little Goldie, and much of it is (forgive me…) very repetitive. It is charming, of course, and adorable, but when you're standing by me on a stool while I make dinner, repeating, "Oooo making, Mommy? Ahmgurgurs? Ooo making? Ahmgurgurs? Ooo making, Mommy? Ooo making? Ahmgurgurs?"—well. I have to admit I make the progression from "Yes, sweetie, it's hamburgers" to "Hmm, what do YOU think I'm making?" to "You KNOW it's hamburgers, Goldie" to "Aaaargh, stop ASKING me that!" more quickly than I'd like.
But we can't resist you for long, any of us. You occupy such a happy place in this family right now. There are so many people who dote on you and delight in every little thing you do. Your brothers and sisters have been loving you from literally the very second you were born (and before!), and even more than any of the others before you, you were OUR baby—not just MY baby. 
Because there are so many of us, and baby Theo is still so small, when we go places I sometimes have to assign you out to your big brothers and sisters. We went to a big playground where I couldn't watch you, and Abe and Seb and Ky took you by turns, fifteen minutes at a time. I was afraid I might get some resistance from them, since they couldn't set off doing their brave, adventurous big-kid things while they were watching you, but then I realized that far from being disappointed when their turn came, they were fighting over you, each one hoping to be the one that got you next. Each brother sweetly held your hand and let you around to all the best places, and did everything with an eye to getting you to laugh or squeal with delight, and relished being the one you looked up at so admiringly and so trustingly. 
This is too blurry to even see your face, but you're laughing and clasping your hands with joy—you can see it in every line of your little body
The same thing happened a few days later at the swimming pool while I was nursing baby Theo. Malachi held out his arms to "catch" you while you "jumped" over and over again off the step of the pool to him (that was a sight to see: tiny you bending at the knees, brows furrowed in concentration, and then, with a mighty effort, heaving up your legs, leaving one or the other foot trailing along behind you as you took an awkward, hopping step down into the water—but just as pleased as if you'd plunged from the high dive). Sebastian put you on his back and ferried you into the deep water, saying "Hop like a bunny! Hop like a bunny!" as he bounced you up and down. (You repeated that little phrase to yourself a hundred more times that day after Seb left you in my care, no doubt trying to capture the same excitement you'd felt with him.) Abraham devised some racing, splashing game that had you breathless with laughter and dizzy excitement. I could hear you shrieking and guffawing all the way across the pool.

I'm sure there will be moments of frustration with all these siblings of yours, but I hope you also know how lucky you are to have them; your cheering section, your adoring public. You enchant them just by being YOU, and I hope as you grow up, you will keep loving them back as joyfully as they love you now.
A few days ago we were at the swimming pool again and I was sitting with Theo, watching you reel and stagger through the water…bumble around…fall down…stumble to your feet again, coughing and blinking but smiling, smiling, smiling. The sun was coming sideways and lighting your eyes up blue-green, and your whole face was shining with excitement. I wanted to take picture after picture of you, preserve the I-still-think-it-might-be-the-tiniest-bit-red glint of your hair, catch every single flash of life coming through your expressive little face. But since we were in the water and my arms were full of wet baby, I just tried to remember everything, willing myself to see it all so I could write a picture of it later.
I know I'm really writing this to an older You: you when you can read this and understand and maybe catch a glimpse of who you were, back before you can remember. I just wish that future you could be there, sitting next to me as I watched you in the pool. You scooted through the water, saying so many things: there were other people at the pool playing "Marco Polo," and I heard you murmuring "Mar-co!" to yourself as you spun around for a while. Then you got a couple of your siblings' discarded pool noodles and made a sort of plow with them and chanted "DAN-ger! DAN-ger! DAN-ger!" in a completely un-scary sing-song voice as you pushed them through the water and crawled along behind. Then you were trying to go down the steps to the deeper water, and when I told you to come back, you matter-of-factly told me, "No. Hafta go down dare. Go down by Daisy'n'Zhoonie." But you complied pleasantly enough when I hauled you back by one arm, and then you were off on your own again, singing some little song that I almost thought I recognized. There you were: falling down over and over, thrashing around a bit, coming up with the water streaming off your face and those shining eyes and that smile, Goldie, and I felt so full up with love for you I didn't know how to even hold it in. Like all two-year-olds, you love to sing that Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, but as I watched you it was like you were the whole entire sun, bubbling down and then bobbing up, beaming, and all the while light streaming off of you like a crown. I did try to take pictures once I was dry, of course. But the pictures don't capture it. Video doesn't even capture it. You'd have to just…well, you'd have to BE here with me, watching every little thing you do, to truly appreciate who you are at age two. You're here. But you're too busy BEING you to ADMIRE you, and by the time you can read this, you won't be two anymore.
Here's the thing, though. As cute as all your little mannerisms are, and as much as we all adore sitting around the dinner table and telling each other about the funny things you've been saying, while you sit and take it all in and smile shy, knowing smiles, and giggle with the rest of us even though you have no idea what's so funny—in spite of all that, it's not being a two-year-old that makes you so bright and vibrant and delightful. It's not the way you shout "Iiiiiii do! Iiiiii do!" before you even know what we're offering when we start to say "Does anyone want more…" at dinner. It's not the way you insist that "Goldie say-da prayer!" and then you twinkle your eyes and bite your little lip and look around sideways, silent as the grave, until Daddy calls on someone else. It's not that, but instead it's the fact that we can tell you're someone, someone we don't quite know yet, someone we remain a bit mystified by, but someone we're all going to love and marvel at someday even more than we do now. And someday when you do astonishing things in this world, beautiful and vibrant and important things—well, you might observe that all of us, your adoring fans, are not-so-astonished after all. Because we knew you when you were two, Goldie-locks, and that was all the giveaway we needed.

I love you, sweet girl!

Love,
Mommy

4 comments:

  1. You captured the idea perfectly, that I have had about Oskar and, especially, Clover. They weren't MY babies--they were EVERYONE in the family's baby. It is different and special in a really tender way. How nice for an Oskar and a Clover to have adoring older siblings there to lead and guide and watch over.

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    1. Yes! And I think it's weird that it didn't really happen until child #6. Am I remembering wrong? Or is it just that before that, the other kids weren't quiiiite old enough to care about the little ones? But surely _some_ of them were? Well, anyway, it is nice for these tiny ones of ours. I hope they appreciate it. :)

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  2. How perfectly you have captured her! And the wonder of a two year old in the house. Why haven't I written my kids these fabulous letters for them to get out and one day read about themselves a each and every age!! Such happiness! (And that Babies book! I know exactly the one from your description. I might have to steal the copy my mom owns!)

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    1. Well, at the rate I'm going, the kids will have one letter every seven years or so…but I guess that's better than nothing. :) And it does bring me joy to read back through them and remember some of the little details I'd forgotten. These funny, cute little people of mine.

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