Two years ago tonight, I was wishing you a new home—that is, I was asking you very kindly to leave the premises of my womb and move into my arms. It was a hot June evening, the air thick with mosquitos and the intoxicating smell of Russian olives. I could barely walk, but thought a nice stroll in Grandma’s neighborhood might get you moving. You were supposed to arrive 5 days earlier, my body was aching and I wanted your middle name to be June, and there were only a few hours left on the last day of this 6th month. “Let’s do this, baby…”, I kept saying. “Let’s do this”.
I’ll never forget that evening before you were born. My body swollen, thighs rubbing together and chaffing from the heat and sweat—I was in purgatory. So aware that this might be the last night of our family being a little threesome—I took it all in—both in mourning and in a giddy state of excitement knowing that I would soon meet my baby girl. Grandma pushed your sister in the stroller up ahead of me and would wait every couple of minutes for me to catch up. Daddy was way up ahead getting some exercise. We went all the way to the horse pasture at the end of the road. Momo and I rubbed the velvety nose of a white pony—her breath as hot as mine. My senses were alive—a sign that I could be in early labor. But alas, nothing.
We stopped at the store on the way home and I bought a tray of brownies—we settled in for the night and started watching “As Good as it Gets” while I ate my emotions. She is NEVER going to come… I surrendered the hope that your birthday would be in June, and then you changed your mind. And that is so YOU, Sylvie. I know this about you now. You were comfortable and too stubborn to even hint at being ready to meet us, until you weren’t. And then you came. From the first contraction that night , I knew that you were going to come fast, and furious. And sure enough, we barely made it to the hospital. I checked in at 9 cm and you came out with your firsts up shortly after, ready to take the world by storm. And you have done just that, my little firecracker. My Sylvie June– born just 3 hours into July. You have always called the shots, and damn, I love this about you.
Two years later, and I’m just now writing this down. Two years later and I have finally carved out the time to take myself out, eat some cake and drink a couple of glasses of wine to just ruminate on you, and the incredible little person you have become. I’m not going to lie—it’s been a crazy two years of adjusting to life mothering two little girls and juggling a full time photography career. There have been so many days that ended with me passed out, clothes and lights on, head barely on the pillow. I’m exhausted. But don’t ever believe that I don’t cherish every minute I have with you, watching you light up the room with your wild eyes. I wouldn’t trade a second of it—not even for a full night’s sleep.
And while the days can seem eternal, the years have somehow slipped by. I forget that you’re not a baby anymore. In fact, when you were just 18 months old, you reminded me of that when you unbuckled your own highchair and said, “I got it”. You’ve really never been a baby, in a way—you’ve always been a bit of a genius –right on your sister’s heals. But don’t get me wrong, little darling—you will always be my baby. I will never let you grow up without you knowing that. And while I will miss plucking you out of your little bassinette at 4am to feed you and get some much deserved one-on-one time with you, I am even more excited about who you are growing into. You are a strong willed, adventurous little lady who devours “life” and drinks every moment in with wonder and fun. You are fiercely charismatic and can charm the surliest of personalities. You will change this world. I know it. Of all the endless things that I love about you, I will share just 5 today on the evening before your second 2nd birthday.
One. “I want to go”. This might be your favorite phrase–A phrase so ripe with vivacity that it often stops me in my tracks. Just a couple of months ago, you, and your sister and I were out watching a spectacular pink moon make her grandstand on the Eastern horizon. We swooned, but you were particularly captivated. You couldn’t tear your eyes from her and when it was time for me to take you inside to put you to bed you cried out “Moon! I want the Moon! Moon—I want to go!” And just like that, in that moment, I knew—if you ever want to go to the moon—I have no doubt you will find your way to her. The same phrase rings out every time you see a hot air balloon, airplane, pony, roadside carnival, lake, boat, , kids soccer game in the field across from where we are picnicking… You are a GO GETTER, Sylvie June. You are always in motion and this is my dream for you—Get it all, girl! When you “want to go”, go!
Two: As sophisticated and grown up as you often appear, I always melt when you beg for your blankies. Yes. You have two—a pink one and an orange one and you want them both. You tote them wherever I let you. You used to call them your “BDs” but now you can say, “Blankies. I want them both”. Of course you do. Two is better than one in your world. And why not? You can have them both as long as you want them.
Three: You love to sing. You sing everywhere–in the car, when you are playing, when you’re eating, I’ve even heard you sing in your sleep. You’re darn good too. At 17 months you were singing, “Let it go”, with your sister. IN. KEY. Your photographic memory recalls every song, and I’ll often recognize you singing a Grimes song off my latest mix, or some song you’ve heard on PBS. Your favorite song though is “Snowman”. Snowman, snowman, wears a funny hat. Snowman, snowman, arms stick out like that… You ask to hear it every time we are in the car. I kind of hate it until I hear your little voice rising to the chorus and it always makes me look in the rearview mirror, smile and sigh.
Four: You don’t take shit from your sister. Even when you were just 6 months old you’d let out a deafening scream if Ramona took something from you. Now you actually get a kick out of fighting back and ruffling her feathers. Just yesterday, you were taking a bath and somehow got into Ramona’s personal space. She whined and pushed you away saying “don’t touch me, Sylvie”. You looked at her with a smirk and walked spider fingers across the water so that you were “almost” touching her. The slightly sinister look in your eye made me laugh on the inside. Of course, as your mama, I had to say, “Sylvie—back off”. Momo is saying no”, but I was actually quite proud of you. I’ve always been a people pleaser myself—shape shifting and setting aside my own desires to get people to like me and to keep the peace. You, on the other hand, have no qualms with demanding what you want. And you usually get it. Poor Momo, bless her heart is more like me, and while I completely empathize with her, I respect these traits in you. Don’t ever stop demanding what you want. Don’t let people get under your skin or put you in the corner. Have a sense of humor about it like you do today. Know that it’s usually “their problem—not yours”.
Five. While I love how strong willed and demanding you are, I couldn’t end this without praising you for how polite and kind you have become. We will be eating dinner and midway through, you’ll say, “Thank you, Mama”. Oh, my heart! And you say it as we are pulling out of the parking lot from the pool, or after I’ve combed your hair. You’re also the first to say sorry. And you say sorry from your heart. After seeing that you’ve hurt your sister’s feelings, you’ll always say, “I’m sorry, Momo”, and reach out for a hug. You’ll touch my face when I’m clearly feeling something and say, “you okay, Mama?” You melt my heart daily, Sylvie. You are full of love and compassion and that is something that we cannot teach.
You are my still my baby, Sylvie–always. My little “lady of the forest”, already charming a room and ruling the roost. You complete me as a mama and I am overflowing with pride. And although I can’t always write to you like this, know that I am constantly watching you in awe and wonder, praising God for giving me the gift of being your Mama. Happy Birthday, precious girl. Keep “living”. “Live, always.