I’ve been trying to write this all evening but have just spent the last half hour doing the jiggle-sway parents have made legendary while you slept fitfully in my arms. You’re cutting a new tooth and it took us completely by surprise, what with being located in the way back rather than complementing the front three on your lower gum. Lily’s teeth always came in pairs, perfectly balancing each other in their symmetry. But as I have had to remind myself 1000 times since you were born, you are not your sister but a whole 'nother creature with a whole separate set of rules. Where Lily was cautious and hesitant, you are daring and brash. My brother and I are polar opposites and yet I can’t seem to remember sometimes that you will not do as Lily did just because you came from the same womb. I imagine the mothers of twins find this even more disconcerting, circling their own soft bellies with a finger and wondering how this happened; how these children came to be so perfectly different while mirroring the same face.
But can you blame me for my befuddlement? You’re not supposed to be growing up so much in a single month. I mean come on: chicken pox, bruises, egg hunting, sharing apples with your sister, planting (OK, unplanting) a garden, cutting a new tooth and in the last few days taking your first daring steps. What are you trying to do to me here? I love that you look up to your sister, but you are allowed to do some things slowly, my love. Just because everyone you love is bipedal doesn’t mean you must rush so quickly to your feet that you fall headlong into the stone park bench, scraping your chin and splitting your lip. Yes, I am at times eager to see you walk but I forgot the stress of a child in this stage. I forgot what it’s like to hover constantly at your side, waiting for you to fall, trying to prevent it yet knowing it is part of learning. I “shush shush shush” you when you cry, putting your bleeding mouth to the breast and whispering, “I’m so sorry. Mommy tried to catch you. My poor sweet baby.” Trying to absolve my guilt and erase your pain with hushed tones and mama’s milk.
Today we watched a video tape of your sister at this age and I gasped at her tiny clapping hands, her raspberries into the wash cloth or the silly little tones she would try out in play. I watched her play and listened to my own voice, saw my hands reaching for her, saw her falling down and getting back up, seeking comfort and assurance. I don’t know that little baby anymore; she’s been replaced by this startling beautiful and funny (almost) three-year-old and I almost cried to realize that one day this baby before me would be a surprise as well. One day I’ll look at footage of you doing your decidedly Anya things and I won’t remember it with the clarity that feels so personal and intimate right now. I can’t keep up with you girls.
And yet, I am so eager to hear your thoughts. I am so eager to share your passions and get your take on the world. I am so eager to chase you around in circles on the deck while you ride a bike or blow bubbles or laugh wildly at a joke that doesn’t make any sense. How can I be in such sorrow for what’s behind me while simultaneously reaching my hand forward for what you will become?
Tonight as we walked towards a parking lot, you perched on my hip making happy noises and covered in tiny cooked grains of rice, I looked ahead of me and saw Lily’s small hand snake up into her father’s. “Cars go! Hold hand, Daddy! Be full-full [careful]!” she declared. I saw you standing on the other side at about Lily’s age now, both of you guiding your father through the lot and I felt the emptiness of my arms as I walked behind this picture: my husband and the girls he helped create. I saw so much of who you will be and even though the details were fuzzy, I saw so much of my life rolled out in front of me, brilliant and full and wrapped in laughter. I saw that even though you refuse to slow down you will always be my tiny girl; you will always be my Anya, doing your decidedly Anya things. And really, that’s all a mother could ask of her child, to just keep being herself, no matter how much her mother protests.
So happy 11 months, Anya. Next time I write you one of these you’ll be celebrating your first year on this swiftly tilting planet. Just try not to celebrate it with too many scrapes on your perfect face.