At 6:20 I hear you. Always before 7. Little stinker. You are standing at the foot of your crib watching the door. Watching for your mama. Waiting. Anticipating. And hollering. I lift you into my arms. Smell your sweet baby smell. Kiss your head and your neck and your cheeks. Your fat cheeks. Such an early hour. But your sweetness overwhelms me and the hour doesn’t feel so early anymore. We settle on the living room couch. You lay between me and the back of the couch, eager to nurse. I snuggle you close and drink in the beauty of your face, your fuzzy brown hair, your chubby thighs, your puckered lips as you drink. I love the sight of you and the sounds of you. I close my eyes and drift between sleep and wakefulness. You lay peacefully for awhile. Slowly you begin to wiggle. And babble. Eventually you sit up. Then you stand. “Mmm mmm mmm”, I hear from you, like the milk is so good you must vocalize your pleasure. You roll and grin and babble some more. And all this while you want to nurse. An hour passes in this quiet couch land.
Eventually your siblings wake and the house comes alive. Yells ring out. And laughter. And footsteps. We move to the den, turn on a movie for your brothers. Find a bottle for Canyon, a bowl of cereal. A banana for you. He shares his cheerios with you, puts the cheerios in your mouth. You gobble them up. Make faces at him. He grins at you, dotes on you, calls you “sweetie”. We are big fans of you, Queen Bee.
Another hour passes, you, me, your sister, your brothers. All cuddled in the den, movie on, cereal munched, shades drawn. It is a lazy Sunday morning. I remember this day one year ago, as each hour passes. Sweet memories. Hard memories. Has it been a year already?
Near 9 we decide it is time to wake up daddy. I take you to our room. He is up, getting dressed. You give him a grin. I love how much you love your daddy. We talk about the plan for the day and decide to get this train a movin’. Together we work to get us all out the door. Breakfast is eaten, clothes put on, your diaper changed, socks and shoes found. Your daddy and your siblings take one car. You and I take the other.
They are birthday gift shopping. You and I head to the grocery. You are in a goofy mood. My favorite. You make faces at everyone we pass. Most of them smile or laugh. A few make comments. Your toothy grin and chubby legs are hard to ignore. I push you through the store. You sit near me in the cart. I pause every few seconds to kiss your temple.
We head home with a car full of groceries, for the week and for the party. The afternoon is busy. Cleaning, cooking, keeping up with the four of you. Daddy spends most of it working on the yard. Meadow and Granite are mama’s big helpers. You take a great nap. Canyon takes no nap. He helps at first. It isn’t until 4ish that his skipped nap really takes effect. His behavior worsens every hour after, with pleasant moments interspersed throughout.
We settle in your room at naptime. You nurse yourself to sleep. Almost always you do this. I can’t remember if I nursed your siblings to sleep. I don’t think I did. But this has become our routine. I read and rock. The fan is on, and the lamp. Your shades are closed. We rock and I read and you nurse until you are fast asleep. Or at least nearly. Then I lay you on your belly, you pull your knees up to your chest and I cover you with a blanket, grab my book and anything else that needs grabbing and quietly close your door. Sometimes I see you an hour and half later. Other times it is two and a half. I prefer the latter, truth be told.
You wake and nurse again. Then your siblings and I pass you around until the party starts. Your grandmommy and granddaddy and Aunt Tammy stop by to kiss you and tell you Happy Birthday and leave you a present. Honey and Papa and Grandma Great, Star and Taylor and the boys and your BFF Addi and cousin Asher all stay until bedtime.
It is beautiful outside so we sit on the patio and eat delicious chicken that your daddy has grilled, and sweet potatoes in honor of the birthday girl, Caesar salad, fruit and veggies with hummus, chips and fresh salsa. It gets late quickly. The cousins play. You sit on Uncle Taylor’s lap through most of dinner. He feeds you bites of whatever is sitting on the nearest plates. You are a big fan of his. As the sun begins to set we move inside.
You have a pile of presents. Mostly clothes. A qiant box of wipes that your daddy bought. A foam puzzle, a toy computer, a ball toy that Canyon picked out for you, a toy puppy from Granite, cute clothes from Meadow. Watching you pull the tissue paper out of each bag and reach in to retrieve whatever present awaits you, is delightful. Somehow you know exactly what to do and how to respond. You sit in my lap. We are all captivated by your smiles and your sounds.
After presents we sing Happy Birthday and Ezra helps you blow out your candle. Yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing and pink sprinkles from Auntie Star. You are the best cupcake eater of our four. You immediately dig in and eat almost every bite. You wipe your finger through the frosting and lick it off your finger. Over and over you do this, until it is gone. Then you break off little chunks of cupcake with your right hand and put them into your mouth. At some point we give you water, which you drink, but which you also dump all over your tray. So then you end up with cupcake soup. Everyone thinks this is so gross. Except for you. You eat your cupcake soup happily.
Finally you are ready to move on, you grow tired of your cupcake soup. Daddy lifts you from your cupcake covered seat, removes your cupcake covered clothes and plops you into the bathtub. You love the bath and play and splash happily as he washes the day off of your hands and arms and face.
Mama gets you a clean diaper, clean jammies. We tell your siblings and your daddy good night and settle, once again, into your rocker to nurse and rock. And read. It is quiet in your room. I lay my book down and just savor the sight of you. My precious girl. My gift. My redemption nurser. This year has been so hard in so many ways. So exhausting. But you are such a bright spot in my heart and in my days. You have restored much of what was lost. Watching you turn one today was so incredibly bittersweet. Like you crossed some imaginary threshold and are now no longer my baby. The memories of your birth and the nine months leading up to it are still so fresh. My mind can hardly comprehend that a whole year has past since I first held you in my arms.
I lay you in your crib. Pause over your bed before I turn off the light, trying to remember every detail of this moment, every detail of you. If a heart can burst with love for another, then my heart just may. I love you now and always, my Haven girl. Happy birthday.