4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I look at the clock and it’s 11:34 pm. I picture my newly minted five-year-old, asleep in her bed, covered with the Hello Kitty blanket I stayed up until past midnight last night to make, her hands curled under her ear, like the fiddlehead ferns she begged me to buy in the grocery store last week. I wonder, does she know that she has twenty-six minutes (now twenty) left of being in the in-between?
Because on her birthday this morning, she began as a four-year-old. And four-year-olds are young. They’re like babies. They go to pre-school. They say things like, “I liked it, but only one dot,” and everyone nods in wonderment. They are allowed to lisp. They always get right of way, whether on a bike or in a pool or playing Skipbo. Because they’re just four. And everyone else, at least everyone else in my house, is older.
But now, asleep in her bed, she is five. And in twenty minutes (actually, now eighteen minutes) she will be entirely five, not even one dot four. And while she will remain the youngest in my household, five does not have the cachet that four does.
I remember turning five. I remember it distinctly, although I don’t remember anything much from before then. But I remember that on my fifth birthday I got a record from my aunt and uncle that had songs from Sesame Street, including the Letter J, the Number 5 and I Love Trash. Also, I Love to Teach the World to Sing, the one with the verse in spanish.
I would dance around my living room acting out every song on the record, this record seemingly invented for me with the Letter J and the Number 5 and trash, jumping up on the white hassock on wheels, facing the large picture window with the blue and white curtains like it was a stage and I was a star and the whole entire neighborhood was watching me wondering when they would see me on the Al Alberts Showcase with all the other pretty little girls in red and white dresses and perfectly curled ringlets.
Somewhere between then and not so long after then, I realized that I would never be on the Al Albert Showcase. I don’t have much of a voice. Or dance moves. Although I did have occasional ringlets. But nonetheless, I aspired to less, less even than Al Albert and his Philadelphia variety show on Sunday mornings featuring little kids in their Easter clothes.
And I wonder if she will figure out something about herself and her possibilities between now and not so long after now.
(God, I hope not.)
Right now she thinks that everyone will want to be her friend. And so everyone does. Random people on the beach, the people in the grocery store, the kids at school, even her sister’s friends, they all want to hold her hand. I have had people thank me for bringing her to the grocery store because she made their day, just being there. Like, more than once.
She is effervescent, glowing, with pearly skin and golden hair and the ability to ride the same two-wheeler three miles as her six-year-old siblings ride. In the last few months she has begged me to teach her to read and to play the piano, and so I have, and so now she does those things, too. Yesterday she swam the length of the pool with no help. She dove right in, head curled forward, toes splayed out behind.
Today she is absolutely invincible.
It is 11:56 pm now and there are just four more minutes of the in-between.
It is June, and there are only two and a half more months before she begins kindergarten, heading into all-day school with the other three.
Then in thirteen short, short years she will graduate from high school. Then three months later she will likely leave for college.
I will fold that Hello Kitty blanket and tuck it in her special box. I will walk through her bedroom wondering when she will fill it again. Will she come home for Thanksgiving? How long will those three months between dropping her off at her freshman dorm and November break seem? How will she see herself then? What dreams will she chase?
It is midnight and the little girl who poses for the camera, who glows and shimmers, runs and struts to catch up, she is no longer four, not even one dot. Tomorrow she will be nothing but five.
May she unfurl those tendrils and curl towards the light, stretching and growing and forever invincible.
(Happy birthday, my little baby girl.)