Newsletter: Month Sixty

Dear Leta,

Yesterday you turned five years old, or you could say that you celebrated your 60th month of life. Turns out I didn’t write a newsletter for your 59th month, and I blame that entirely on what I call placenta brain, the situation that occurs when a pregnant woman’s blood supply is so concentrated on growing someone else’s fingers and toes that her brain doesn’t have enough juice to complete simple tasks. Like remembering her husband’s name. Or turning the car off before going inside the grocery store. I’m considering it a good day that I remembered why I sat down at the computer and think you should appreciate the fact that I am so with it this morning that this letter didn’t begin with, “Dear Coco…”

I know, that would not have been amusing in the least, and I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes out of your mouth when you sit down to talk to a therapist years from now is, “So we had this miniature Australian Shepherd…”

I cannot wrap my head around the idea that you’ve been in our lives for five years, that seems impossible, wasn’t it just yesterday that they yanked you out of my womb and placed you trembling onto my exhausted chest? I come back to that memory of you often, your right arm extended toward my face, the two of us meeting for the first time. I remember thinking, OH MY GOD I GAVE BIRTH TO MY HUSBAND.

You looked exactly like him, still do, and sometimes in the mornings I will roll over in bed and see you nestled into his arm watching cartoons, and in the darkness of those early hours your profiles are such that I have to strain to detect who is who. Since I’ve been pregnant he has taken over most of the morning responsibilities, and that includes making room for you on his side of the bed when you show up before 7 AM. You are now conditioned to walk over to his side of the room, reach out your arms and ask, “Is it time for SpongeBob?” And then for the next hour I will nod in and out of sleep to the sound of you two laughing and making fart noises with your hands. I think of all those coworkers I had in Los Angeles who used to smoke pot before they came into the office, how my mornings now are exactly the trip that they were hoping for.

Your fifth year was by far the best yet, and not just because you are almost totally self-sufficient, although that does help quite a bit. There came a point in the last year when we felt like we were home free, like well, she can dress herself, pour her own cereal and read instructions, what’s left for us to do? And now that you’ve got Wikipedia, do you really need two aging and out-of-touch busy bodies trying to guide you through life? Who’s fact-checking the parents, am I right? It’s like our only purpose now is to make sure you don’t end up taking a job that requires the removal of your clothing, a job that could just as easily be accomplished by repeated viewings of E! True Hollywood Story. I’m thinking we’re needed from here on out for the sole purpose of driving you to and from birthday parties.

One of the biggest developments in the last year has been your love of reading, and the fact that you caught on so fast will forever amaze us. We’ve fostered this skill here and there, but never expected you to take to it so quickly. You’re reading everything now: headlines, boxes of crackers, the publisher information on the inside jacket of every book. Every night you read us a bedtime story, sometimes stumbling through three-syllable words, but always embracing victory when you sound out something correctly. This is a bittersweet development as now your father and I can no longer spell things out around you when we don’t want you to know what we’re talking about, and more than once you have suddenly looked up from a game you’re playing and gone, “BLOW… JOB…? WHAT’S A BLOW JOB?”

Unfortunately I can’t give you the answer my mother gave me which was GO ASK YOUR BROTHER.

Your father and I have been making a special effort these last few months to savor this time we have with you alone, time before all of our lives are disrupted by the arrival of a new family member. I remember during that first year with you spending Saturday mornings in our bedroom watching marathon episodes of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” how you’d kick your feet the moment you recognized the theme song. I remember when you were eighteen months old, how you’d repeat the word LEEGO from the backseat when you were tired of riding around in the car. I remember chasing you up and down the aisle at the grocery store when you were two, how the hair in your pigtails would flop up and down to the rhythm of your unstable toddle. I remember when you were three how you would call a lake a “lape” and a river a “ribber.” And then when you were four, how quickly you caught on to my sarcasm, would shake your head and say, “Mother, you’re joking.”

You have changed so much since that first morning you spent with us, a morning that altered my life so drastically that sometimes it still feels like I’m catching my breath. I imagine that I won’t ever stop feeling this way, won’t ever stop having a portion of my brain dedicated to the thought of where you are and what you’re doing, won’t ever be able to escape the constant, nagging hope that you are happy and fulfilled. My pulse is forever closer to the surface of my neck because of you, because of my responsibility toward you, and I can’t thank you enough for the dimension that this has added to what it means to be alive.

Love, Mama