Oh, the smiles you inspire.
Dear Annie Elizabeth:
Your voice, I’ve come to realize, is like birdsong. Your chatter in the mornings as we get ready for work and school, the kind where you are preoccupied with little figurines in the midst of some drama, is easy and bright. Something there is so lovely about a child-soprano tittering throughout the house.
This verbal measure has increased noticeably as you’ve approached your third trip around the sun. When you were younger, your mother and I laughed that with two talkative siblings, you may never have a chance to get a word in edgewise.
You’ve shown no signs of letting Julia and Thomas get in your way, though.
I must admit, my dearest third child, that your position in our family is brand-new to my experience. Unlike my parents, I never knew a childhood with more than one sibling nearby. When you were born, I wondered about how you would join into the thrum that had been our life with two little kiddos. Where and when–and how–would we see you emerge?
Laughter. Peals and peals of bright, thrilling laughter.
My dear, you keep us smiling, and we in turn are filled with joy by your presence. Your brother and sister find warmth in your jokes, and to be fair, you’ve learned from their true talent.
You define your humor with a certain lovely endeavor. Yes, you are a third child, and we are awfully tempted to keep you the baby of the family. But you resist that in your insistence toward independence. Lest anyone forgets: you open your own yogurt cup at breakfast. No help needed.
Like your siblings, you have a magnetism that draws grownups to you. And you have a certain specialness that makes my heart ache with love for you. Perhaps it’s the way you’ll put your head down as you totter forward, or the way you’ll cast a glance across the room, or the way excitement carbonates your voice when you say “Thanks, Da-da!” and mean it.
Three is an age in which, bit by bit, we see you fill in your personhood. The tiniest things: how you reach for my hand when we walk to school, or how you insist upon wearing your ballet shoes, even while going out to play.
I must also mark this time with some sadness.
Your third birthday fell only three days after your dear Granny passed away. You may not remember this very well–if at all–which pains me to consider. We worried about what to tell you, and how. We celebrated your and Julia’s birthdays with your grandfather the day after her funeral. I was nervous about all of the raw emotions flooding our family that week, everything so tumultuous. It was both lovely and devastating to see you open presents that Granny had picked out for you before she died.
In a way, I am grateful that your effervescent spirit was liberated by its young age from the grief that saturated us all that week. You were too little to apprehend these heavy things.
Instead, you were our light. Your smile, and your laughter, and your voice–birdsong on the first sunny morning of spring. Sometimes those are the kinds of things that make all the difference.
Happy birthday, my sweet Annie-bananie.