I'm sitting here on my couch, thinking about how four years ago tonight (March 11), Felicity was a wriggly being in my belly; but I'd never yet laid eyes on her, never kissed her cheeks or heard her cry. But 24 hours later, there she was: a secret, made manifest; an unknown made known.
It's crazy to think of that time Before Felicity, when I could only imagine who she would be or even what she'd look like. I'm certainly not the first to say it, but it seems almost impossible to imagine life without her, to remember a time when I didn't look at her little face every day. She is so enmeshed in us, and us in her, that I sometimes imagine her being present for things that happened long before she came into being.
The system is a bit cruel, how once you have a child time begins to accelerate at an astonishing rate when all you want is to be able to hold onto each iteration of your little one a tiny bit longer. The upside is that every age seems to be The Best Age Ever; on the other hand, it's not fair that Baby Felicity and Toddler Felicity and Two-Year-Old Felicity are just gone. It's as if you met the most startlingly wonderful person in your life and you became wonderful friends, and then POOF! They were gone, moved away to some distant country of memory, and you could never see them again.
And yet, it only keeps getting better. As we enter age four, I am certainly in mourning for three, as it was a brilliant year; but I can't settle into my grief, because my glimpses of four-year-old Felicity are astonishing and wonderful.
She wants to do everything herself. "I can do it, Mommy!" she says, about nearly everything. "Let me do it by myself!" And in most cases, she actually can. "Go get dressed while I take a shower," I'll say to her, and SHE DOES. She comes up with some unique outfits, but she can take off her pajamas and put on a whole outfit (including tights!) without any help at all.
She loves to help with dinner ("Stay right there. Don't move! I'm going to get my step-stool!" she'll say when I make a move to start cooking), pour the milk over her cereal, and clear her place when she's done eating. She puts on the dog's leash, walks him down the block (with a grown-up, obvs), and puts him in his crate when we return. She knows when the cat gets himself trapped in our bookcase (why he repeatedly does this is a mystery to me) and she moves the toy bench so he can get out ("Come on out, Atticus! You sweet kitty"). She brushes her hair and teeth, turns on her white noise machine, and turns out her light. (Woe to you if you do something for her that she wanted to do for herself.)
She gets up in the night to take herself to the bathroom, and goes straight back to bed. And in the morning she stays in her bed until I come get her. Some nights she will urge me to leave her room so she can go to sleep: "Mama, close the door! Go out of my room so I can sleep [sweep]!"
Our girl remains highly empathetic, with a pure and tender heart. She frequently comes home from school with stories about how so-and-so told such-and-such that they didn't want to be friends anymore, and whenever I ask her what she did, she says, "I gave such-and-such a hug." Same with kids who get in trouble: "L had to go sit in a chair because he pushed down M. So I went and gave L a hug."
Last weekend, I took her to the Children's Museum of the Arts, which features among other things a room filled with giant exercise balls -- a sort of amped-up ball pit to beat all ball pits. She had fun bouncing around for a long time, but then as the activity level in the room reached a fever pitch, she found this one oblong ball and carried it laboriously over the rest to a quiet, sunny corner by the window. She named it Palooka and told me, "Palooka is sad and lonely, so I am going to be his friend and give him lots of hugs and snuggles." When it was time to leave, she gave Palooka lots of kisses, and that night she asked if we could go visit Palooka again the next day because she was sure he was crying without her.
Sometimes she just surprises me with the things she says. One day when I was cleaning up after her dinner and I banged my elbow on something. I leaned over the kitchen counter and groaned in pain and she said, "Mommy. Why are you so gloomy?"
A few days ago, she announced over breakfast that she had a baby in her tummy and that it was a girl because she wanted a sister. She said the baby was going to come out in April. Then she asked me how babies come out into the world. This was all before 7:30am. We also had a rather involved conversation about Adam and Eve the other night. She was extremely insistent about some point I can't now recall, on which she was entirely incorrect, and after I calmly and gently explained the facts to her, she said, "Mommy. Don't be contrarian." To which my knee-jerk response was, "I'm not!" To that, she gave me a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin.
She has been honing her -- what shall we call them? -- negotiation skills and can be as stubborn as a proverbial mule. She will argue a point into the ground and then some; little does she know that with two extremely hard-headed lawyers as parents, she doesn't stand much of a chance -- but she sure gives it her all.
Her memory astonishes me; the other night we were eating dinner and out of the blue she said, "E. found Atticus in the garbage behind his apartment building during a snowstorm!" I honestly don't remember when I told her that story, but it had to have been AGES ago. More than six months, at least. And BAM, there it was. Which was a stark reminder that she is old enough now to form memories that will stick with her forever. (No pressure or anything.) I can clearly remember a whole lot of things, and long swaths of time, that happened when I was four. (I have memories that reach farther back than that, but four is when it becomes clearer and more reliable.)
What I hope she will always remember is how much her father and I -- and so many other people who know and love her -- delight in her and in everything she brings to our lives. She breathes life into every day and even when I'm tired or frustrated, her gentleness and kind spirit envelop me and I cannot stay down for long. I hope she'll one day understand that the way she embraces people (on a collage at school of things she loves, one of her items was "people" along with the generic "man" and "lady" -- no need for Mom and Dad; any man or lady will do!) and animals and experiences -- the way she sees everything in the best possible light -- inspires me to approach the world with less cynicism and greater acceptance.
I hope she will always remember how our faces light up whenever she enters a room, and how we'll drop whatever we're doing to give her hugs and kisses, to make her laugh, and to listen to her.
Four years ago, sitting on this very spot, I was excited about the future and couldn't wait to meet my daughter. But little did I know what an extraordinary person would emerge into the world the very next day. Little did I know that I would never be the same again.