Tomorrow you turn two years old. That’s twenty-four months on planet Earth! The exact length of time a Mormon missionary spends proselytizing in a far away land! That’s a long time to wait if you’re that missionary’s girlfriend. And if you had someone waiting for you, they’d see you today for the first time in two years and be all WHOA, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR TOOTH?
In the past year you learned to walk! That’s pretty impressive, I mean, considering that most animals never stand on two legs. You’re more awesome than most animals! MORE AWESOME THAN LIZARDS! You’ve got to feel proud about that one, and oh! You can eat with utensils! Sort of. I would call it Making Art With Utensils because you’d much rather use your hands. And when we hand you a spoon you look at us like, umm, ok? Do you want a landscape? A portrait? Do you want me to go Pollock all up on this tray, BITCHEZ?!
You’re a mess. A total mess. A wild, tumbling, whirling mess who could not possibly be more joyous. Yes, you get angry and mean and feisty with a FAH-HIGH-STEE. But everything is interesting to you, and even in the midst of a mean streak you’ll see your stuffed puppy across the room and shriek, “SO CUTE PUPPY!” And then run and give it a kiss. That puppy shouldn’t feel special, though, because you’ll kiss just about anything. You once kissed a wrench. But to your credit, as far as wrenches go, that wrench was pretty damn lovely.
You’re very different from you sister in this sense. You love stuffed animals and blankets and cuddling up right under our arms. Leta couldn’t have cared less about stuffed animals, or real animals for that matter. AND PLEASE DO NOT INVADE HER PERSONAL SPACE. You adore the dogs and are always running to give them hugs. However, you’ve seriously got to stop calling Chuck “Coco.” Because that is going to be one giant shit he leaves at the foot of your crib.
You call all dogs “Coco.” You also call all women my age “Mommy,” all men “Daddy,” and anyone with gray hair “Grandmommy.” When we ask you to say please, you respond with, “PLEASE SAY!” And that is the phrase of the year. Everyone uses this phrase now whenever asking for something politely. Would I like fries with that? PLEASE SAY! Do I need some help? PLEASE SAY! Would I like to join him in the bedroom with some candles and Barry White? OH HELL YES PLEASE SAY.
Every morning you wake up happy. My parents said I had this trait as well, but now I understand why they remembered it with such nostalgic fondness. You are spectacular in the mornings. Delightful: OOH! Milk! Look! De couch! PUPPIES! COCO! OOH! Where’s Deda?! DEEE-DAAA! DERE SHE IS!
The only way I can describe what it’s like to hold you as you make these high-pitched, exhilarating outbursts about the simplest of things is, well, use of illegal drugs. People ruin their lives with illegal drugs because they want to feel that feeling I feel when I’m holding you in the morning.
Because it is the purest essence of that which hasn’t been desensitized by pain, loss, disappointment, or failure. It’s the thrilling rush of hope and possibility shooting right into the core of what it means to be human: we are alive! We live! Look! Another day to be alive! That is the fundamental principle behind everything meaningful. We are alive to witness.
You have brought that to us again as Leta did before you. Leta’s gift to us was practice. We enjoyed her excitement about the world, but because we were first-time parents we were always a little tentative. A bit careful, maybe too cautious. But because of that practice and experience, we can run full bore, head-first into you.
Sometimes in the middle of the unhinged chaos that is our lives, you’ll pop up with a BOOFUL PUPPY SO CUTE! while Leta is chasing you through the living room. And our involuntary reaction is to stop. This is it. I want to squeeze the air and nuzzle it under my chin, because this is my family. I have a family. I want to tell the ten-year-old me that it really is as amazing as I hope it will be. In fact, you have no idea.