Little Wing

November 14, 2010

Dear Emilia,

Today, you are five.

This is both totally extraordinary, and utterly ordinary. Which of these it is varies from minute to minute: in one moment, I look at you and think, when did you become such a big girl? Where did that little baby go? Where has the time gone? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE FIVE? In another, I look at you and I think, wasn’t it ever thus? Have you not always been this little girl, this little big girl, this here-and-now person who is so completely and utterly you that any other yous, all the previous yous, are almost unimaginable?

fall 2010 067 2That you are five and that you are you and that you become ever more you – ever more consistently you and ever more differently you – with every passing day is, for me, a joy for which I have no words. But it is also a sadness, an ongoing grief – a quiet grief, the kind that just hums, quietly, in the darker corners of my soul – and for it, too, I have no words. How do I describe the feeling of celebrating you and mourning you, all at once? Of the joy that I feel in your presence that thrums with a nagging sensation of loss? The complicated happiness that is loving the incomparable you that you are now and aching to discover the incomparable you that you will be tomorrow and missing the incomparable you that you were yesterday, last month, last year? The sweet sadness that comes with yearning to find out who you will become while clinging to the you that you were?

You are, of course, always you. There is an ineffable you, an unchanging Emilia who is the anchor of the baby, the toddler, the kindergartener, the girl, who is the Emilia that sings her Emilianess, always, who I know is constant, or as constant as anything mortal can be. But there is also the mercurial you, the Emilia who is always changing and growing, the Emilia who, a few weeks ago, would only eat sandwiches with butter and jam, but who now will only eat them with cheese, and then only if ‘the bread is warm but the cheese isn’t melted and MOMMY I SAID NO CRUSTS.” The Emilia who, last year, was going to be a drummer and a race car driver when she got bigger - “next year I think, Mommy, after I learn to tie my shoelaces” – but who now is going to be a snowboarder and rock star (“here is my secret, Mommy: when I hear a song that I like, I copy it in my head so that when I am rock star and have my electric guitar I can remember them and play them properly”) (on that playlist: Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen, Journey and Hannah Montana) and who knows how to tie her shoelaces but does not yet know how to drive. The Emilia who will someday know how to drive. The Emilia who will someday, who must, someday, drive away from me.

Or walk, or bicycle, or pilot a helicopter, who knows. The point is that I do not yet know anything about that Emilia, except that she will leave. That you will leave. Ah, my heart.

This is the cliche of mothers, of course: that they clutch and cling and try to keep their babies babies. I don’t want to keep you as a baby. You will always be my baby, but that will be true whether you are four or five or fourteen or fifteen or fifty. And I’m dying to know what you will be like, who you will be, at fourteen and fifteen and fifty, to say nothing of tomorrow and the next day and the next. I adore who you are now, and it seems impossible that I could love you any more than I do at right this very moment, but I also know from experience that my love for you becomes, with every passing moment, ever more full, more complex, more replete with color and texture and depth and movement, as you become every more fully you, ever more complexly you, ever more replete with your you-ness. The cliche, then, is limited, misleading. I do not want to freeze you in time, lock you in the tower, keep you bound to my side.

But then again, there is still a tiny part of me – maybe a not so tiny part of me – that does want to keep you with me, that does want to hold onto the you that you are in any and every given moment, that does mourn the ongoing loss of these yous, that does struggle, in some moments, with the urge to pray to every god in the heavens to freeze time here, right here, and keep us here for eternity.

And then off you run, clutching your cheese sandwich and your guitar and your backpack full of dreams and schemes and bubblegum, and I think, go, go YOU. Walk the clouds, ride the wind, baby, fly on.

budge running

Fly on.

Happy birthday, little girl.



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    a November 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Happy Birthday, Emilia!
    .-= a´s last blog ..A Stalker Story =-.

    Brenna November 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Happy Birthday to your girl. Love the reflection that our babies’ birthdays can bring…
    .-= Brenna´s last blog ..Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and businesses that put profits over people… =-.

    Amy November 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    My daughter will be four AND A HALF tomorrow and she can’t wait. Not that anything happens beyond a sticker on the growth chart and the privilege of saying “I’m four AND A HALF!” but she’s so excited.

    I, on the other hand, feel just about exactly the same way you do. I’m already in shock about her turning 5 in May. I can’t wrap my head around her going to kindergarten next year. Baby Phoebe, Toddler Phoebe, and Preschooler Phoebe will be just memories. I remember crying when she turned 1 because I was mourning her baby-ness. I’m guessing I’ll probably cry when she turns 5 for the same reason–times five.

    Sarah Kate November 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Happy Birthday Emilia! I too wonder what you will become as I anticipate it to be something formidable and groundbreaking. Something special about you, child. Yay, Yay for being five!

    Barnmaven November 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    They grow so fast. You captured this beautifully.
    .-= Barnmaven´s last blog ..A Breakfast Poem =-.

    Jennifer November 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    You write with heartbreaking real-ness. I love this piece.

    Melissa November 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Happy Birthday, Emilia!

    This is the reason, if I could have put it into words, why I have never been able to sing Happy Birthday to my kids. Not once. (One is four, the other just turned one.) I start out “Happy bir—” and then I have to tell myself, Keep it together, SMILE, look happy…! But meanwhile, everything you wrote here is the struggle going on inside. You got it Just Right and it’s beautiful–your daughter is lucky to have this (and all your writing) to read someday.

    Bon November 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    oh sniff. yes. i don’t wish to hold them in today, not really. but i wish there were doors i could open just to peek in on the past thems, no matter how i love each self they try on (erm, mostly) and shed, no matter how i await the future.

    happy birthday to your girl.
    .-= Bon´s last blog ..witness =-.

    erica November 14, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    absolutely beautiful. i struggle to put my feelings into words like this and you do it so perfectly. thank you. and happy birthday, emilia.

    Forgetful Man November 15, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Hey, that was beautiful. Ah, damn, did it just get really dusty in here? [sniff] ‘Scuse me, I think I heard my little guy just call for daddy…better go check on him…
    .-= Forgetful Man´s last blog ..The parable of the most forgetful man =-.

    Sara Hamil November 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Happy birthday to my favourite 5-year old! High-fives (do you see what I did there?) for EVERYONE!

    mc in Toronto November 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

    You NAILED it in this beautiful post. Well done! Please make sure you print it and save it for her.

    My DD is 4 & 3/4 by her own report. She will be five in Feb. I owe her a lot of writing. Her brother had over 30 well crafted eMail updates to friends & family by 4, til she came along. She has hardly any & none in who knows how long? Years?? Bad mommy, I know.

    I know EXACTLY what you mean and I cry to myself as I stroke her soft cheeck, as I watch her sleep, as she postures like she is 11 when she’s at the pool with the actual 11 yr old girls in the showers and especially when she asks for skinny jeans. Where does she learn about skinny jeans & why now, at 4, does she care?

    I ache inside, wanting not only for time to stand still, but for time back. My kids need daycare. They har high energy, high maintenance & highly social. DD started 2wks before her first birthday. She loved it then & since. Truth be told I can hardly stand having the two of them in the same room for more than 10seconds when we are home. They go nuts in our apt. so we leave & stay out until they are too tired to fight upon return! ;-) So between daycare & all our outings, I have missed more hug time & one-on-one time than I would like. They are fine & flourishing. They are out & about being kids, being silly, running around, making friends. It’s me who misses them, a moment-or two- after they stop driving me crazy. Right there with ya, and it’s so incredibly bittersweet. And if that’s not enough to break my heart, I can fit into my 7yo DS’s sneakers and we share socks. :-(

    TheKitchenWitch November 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

    What a stunning post. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspiring. Happy Birthday, Emilia!

    Bryony Boxer November 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    That was so, so beautiful. I wish I could write like this. Thank you, and Happy Birthday Emilia!

    Angella November 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Happy Birthday, fair Emilia!
    .-= Angella´s last blog ..What I Know For Sure =-.

    lauren November 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I always say that so much of life with children is bittersweet, and you have expressed it so eloquently!!

    Happy Birthday to Mother and daughter!!!

    zchamu November 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    You nailed it. As usual. You nailed it.

    Happy birthday, sweet girl. Hope you found your Buzz Lightyear costume.
    .-= zchamu´s last blog ..Syndication! =-.

    Her Bad Mother November 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    We have not yet found that costume, sadly. And we have not yet heard the end of it.

    EazilyAmuzed November 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    This totally made me cry. I am PMSing but still. Beautiful. You are a fantastic writer. ~Kelley

    Joni November 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    “Of the joy that I feel in your presence that thrums with a nagging sensation of loss.”–beautiful and spot on!

    Postpartum Progress November 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Your writing is so beautiful that it almost hurts me. (I mean that in the best way possible.) Happy Birthday to your little one!
    .-= Postpartum Progress´s last blog ..The Impossible Simplicity of Treating Postpartum Depression =-.

    Her Bad Mother November 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Hurts so good? ;)

    Tracey November 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    This put into words, so eloquently, so touchingly….exactly what I feel and try to describe to others. That undeniable pride and pain all at once. Truly, this is one of the best pieces I have read anywhere, to date. It has stayed with me for days. Thank you for this.

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