One year ago I was barely blinking the glare of the fluorescent lights from my eyes, skin to skin next to my mom -- not that I knew to call her that then -- nursing, which was new, but kind of familiar. The shapes and colors and sounds were erasing memories of a simpler place before, where I didn't feel cold, or hungry, or lonely, or... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Things had been tight, it was time to move on, move out. I would figure the rest out as I went along I decided, and though I didn't know it then, I was lucky to be born a second child so my parents weren't rank beginners. My big bro -- le Petit, you call him? He ain't so petit to me -- had broken them in real well. One of these days I'll have to thank him for it.
Once I figured out that this big, warm Mom shape was pretty reliable -- she had me convinced a week or two into the gig -- I could get down to the serious business of growing. For a few weeks, I was mostly working my arms and legs, swinging them around, getting the hang of them. I can't say I had any big plans yet, but I had a hunch that synchronizing my limbs might come in handy wherever I went next. At the same time, I started making more sense of the things I saw; colors emerged from the shades of gray, and gosh darn it, if there weren't things out there to grasp. So I opened my hands.
But still, the first few months were kind of dull, truth be told. I kept falling asleep in the middle of my meals, but what can you do? I was trying so hard to roll over, it was wearing me out. The rest of the time I just stayed put, following with my busy eyes from my swing or my baby chair or my activity mat the constant movement around me. I pretended to be interested when Mom made me sit and watch her work out to her exercise video, or peeked her head at me from behind the shower curtain in the bathroom. OK, so she could sometimes make me laugh.
What I lived for, though, were the walks, facing out and taking in the world, or snuggled against Mom in the scarf. She walked and chatted and I swayed back and forth, adrift in my own ocean, remembering an even simpler place long ago, before the creatures of the planet evolved and invented the drama of being born.
Summer came. I sat up. I grabbed pebbles. I ate sand. I wasn't too convinced by the real ocean, loud and cold. But I watched from the shore. When Daddy carried me in the Bjorn I felt as tall and as strong as a big person, and people noticed me and talked and I answered with smiles that told them they weren't wasting their time with me.
Halfway through the year, self-propulsion became my obsession. I learned to crawl in my own unique way on two hands and one knee, pushing with my foot and my leg bent off to one side. I gave that up for pulling myself upright along the furniture, and then I let go... and now I walk. I make it look easy now, but when I think back on how I got here, I fall down in astonishment on my padded, diapered behind.
What's next? Talking. So many words are on the tip of my tongue, you wouldn't believe it. At least with my first word I have "maman's" full attention, and with the next my proud "dada" now knows he's also "papa." Then I've got some score settling with my big brother. His toys are my toys and my toys are his toys and I saw already that he won't keep his grubby hands off of my brand-new birthday presents. I also want to find out just why so many things are no -- why can't I lean backwards on the edge of the couch? Or pick up shoes and parade them around the house? Or eat the crumbs I find under the dining table?
Mommy talked to me quietly tonight just as she always does when she nurses me to sleep, but tonight the script was different. She kept saying "a year ago..." and repeating "so exciting, so exciting." "You arrived, and you were in such a hurry," she said, but the way she told it, I almost felt like she was talking to herself. Then I started to drift off to sleep because nursing still makes me so tired, and with all the champagne and foie gras and chocolate cake shared with Grandma and Grandpa tonight, it was a full hour past my bedtime. Eventually my mom's voice was same warm, soft murmur that I remember from one year ago, when I was first blinking on the outside.
I remember it. I really do. And I tell you again, one year is a very long time.
Happy Birthday, Mademoiselle. Forgive me for giving you your words, because I can't find my own to thank you for the love, peace, joy, and wonder you've given me.