Today you are two. This used to not be the case. Yesterday, for instance, you weren’t nearly so many. I guess things can’t help changing all the time.
Today we are reading your favorite book On The Day You Were Born. You point at the tiny stars on the page. I cry and cry and try to remember that growing was always part of the deal. This used to not be the case. You once had fingers that you couldn’t get to work. I once had a heart that I didn’t care to operate.
Before you found me I would never use romanticized phrases like “before you found me”. I was practical, a supporter of facts of figures, what some might call Joy Killer. I rebelled against the common Laws of Mom in that I thought most children’s books were dumb and couldn’t bring myself to apply flowery, magical, or otherwise ethereal terms to the poop’n’guts experience of parenthood. At a party in your honor, someone gifted me a copy of One The Day You Were Born. One bored afternoon I propped my pregnant self up on the couch and took to reading it to you. Basically it stated that on the eve of your birth the animal kingdom would toss around high-fives. Supposedly, I could expect the Earth to rejoice, the Sun and the stars to stand at attention, and more animal high-fives on the day of your birth. I scoffed at such a stupid theory, and opted instead for my own version of the tale: On the eve of your birth my back hurt. On the day you were born my crotch hurt, too.
In that sterile hospital room I kept a calm demeanor. I created a sort of carnival game out of guessing when the next contraction would sting, and cracked jokes about accidental birthing poops. I planned to finish this day just as I’d started, cynical and comfortably rusted over.
A push and then I saw you. Some blue birds high-five outside the window. The sun and the stars surely did stand still. And, my God, the Earth rejoiced. “So pretty,” I almost didn’t recognize the sugar in my voice as you stared at me. I cupped a hand under my mouth to catch that mushy garbage.
Still uncomfortable with this new storm of sweetness a’ brewing, I clung to the curtness I knew best. All of a sudden I didn’t trust myself not to cry or laugh or laugh-while-crying-only-to-explode-with-happiness in your presence. The mere notion that I could envision actually blowing up in a fit of joyful pyrotechnics was enough to give my cold soul the creeps. Safeguards came by way of reading To Kill A Mockingbird to you at night. Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits offered less sentimental lullabies.
By your first birthday, I caught myself falling deeper into that lovey-dovey cliché of mother and child. Despite my best efforts to treat to you as a foreign exchange student, there was no denying the me-ness of you. I couldn’t stop from describing motherhood as “life-changing”. Too often my mouth shocked my brain and slapped my ears with words about your being a “wonder” and as necessary as a heartbeat. Today, you are the “light of my life”, the “wind beneath my wings” and all sorts of other grandiose and heartfelt things. This used to not be the case.
Daily I watch your mind race, your hands fidget, your feet fumble to catch up. The terser Tori would’ve smirked, smug towards the naivety of a child. In the not so distant past I most definitely would have cracked a jab about your crooked knees and lackluster motor skills. I was mean like that. Today, I grab my knee when you scrape yours. I tell the wind to suck it up and stop blowing down your fort because I know that’s what you’d say if you only knew more words. Today, I’m the empathetic sort who’s feeling someone’s pain before they ever know pain is coming. This used to not be the case.
Things can’t stop changing all the time. It’s true. But it wasn’t a sudden change that snapped me from off to on. No, real progress rarely happens that way. Today, you are playing in the leaves. They are auburn, rusted orange, and hot yellow. I like to think the trees woke up so shocked and naked, from blossoming to bare overnight. People raking their yards below the limbs shake their heads. They aren’t surprised, the change from hot to cold always has to pass through warm.
You woke up one day not too long ago astonished with yourself, that you could dance and walk, chew and talk. I laughed. I wasn’t surprised. I’d watched that change build up in you. I woke up one day not too long ago astonished with myself, that I could cry at the overwhelming good around me, that I could turn from stone to butter with the hug from one, small thing. You laughed. You weren’t surprised. You’d watched that maternal sensitivity sneaking up behind me. I suppose I thought I’d never warm.
Today you are two. I am a lullaby-humming, nursery-rhyming, boo-boo-kissing fool. I cradle. I cuddle. I grab my chest a few times a day because gratitude sometimes feels like a heart attack. You’ve turned me into a walking stereotype, a hypocrite, the big winner at a crow eating contest.
Today you are two. Today I’ve never so welcomed your proving me wrong.