I have to let some of this adoration that I feel for you out of my system. I fear that if I don't I will burst open tomorrow (or maybe even tonight, in my sleep.) I wanted to pause time to keep the magic of Christmas from melting away into the wintry doldrums of January, but I wish a hundred times more desperately that I could pause it now to preserve this phase of innocent wonder that you are running through on squishy, square feet. When I watch you dunk your chubby fists in your yogurt cup to get those last, hard-to reach bites, and dump your bowl of fried rice over your head, and christen your toothbrush in the toilet and stick your hands down your diaper, and pick your "boogies nose," and come out of the closet with my underwear on your head, I wonder if I'll ever be able to teach you all the things you need to learn to function as a "normal" member of society. And then I look around, and I realize that I don't want you to blend too seemlessly in with the "norm." I realize that what I should be concerned about is whether or not I am learning all of the sterling little lessons that you have to teach me in this utterly guileless phase of your existence. Sometimes when I get really upset with daddy, forgiveness comes more quickly when I think back to the stories that Nana has told me about him when he was a little boy. It's really hard to stay mad when I imagine him wearing his sister's red polka-dot dress or excitedly doning his cowboy boots for first-grade. I don't know what your adolescent years will be like, but I want to give permanence to a few of the endearing things that you do right now just in case I need a pleasant reminder from our past to endear you to me when you're seventeen. And maybe these silly and soft memories might peel back your rebelious regalia at some point, and remind you of the fact that you are, at your core, good, sensitive, and kind. And that you are tethered up so tightly in your mama's heartstrings that strangulation is always an imminent threat. So let me try to tell you, Henry, how and why you are so lovable...so dear.
It is the way you ask for me, very frankly, from your crib when you're ready to get up, "Hey mama! Me ho-joo! OK?" And when you or I sneeze, how you say, "Besh-oo Henry. Besh-oo Mama," a little confused about who gets the blessing, the sneezer or the blesser, so you just bless both of us. It is the way you announce and claim all of your bodily functions, "TOOTIE!" "Bewp!" "Go Poo Poo!" (though I do hope you'll stop that at some point in the near future,) and even warn me of dad's, "Daddy tootie!" Daddy Bewp!" etc. It makes me smile when I hear you congratulate yourself on a structure well-built with your Mega-blocks, "Goo-job Bud!" you declare satisfactorily as you snap those last pieces together. A masterpiece every time! It is the armful of stories you bring me every night, and the way you ask me to, "weed it, books." And your stubborn insistence to eat everything with a fork--sandwiches, grapes, yogurt, cheese slices. No matter the food, you "Need it, byew (blue) fowk!" It is the way you greet every day with smiles and enthusiasm, pointing out the little pillow that's been in your crib every night for the past year, the one that you pointed out yesterday morning and the morning before, and the one before...like you'd never seen such a nice, soft, wonderfully, snuggly little "pee-yow" before. And how you do the same thing when you "heow dat bowdie!!" (hear that birdie) and "see dat fowows!!" (see that flowers) and feel the "Shu-shine" and "heow dat Aew-pane" (hear that airplane) -- how you notice them all with the same inquisitive wonder and delight that you did the first time you ever saw a birdie, an airplane, a flower. It's the way you stroke my hair at night and "shhhh mama" when we snuggle before bedtime. And the way you love your blankie--like I loved mine, and ask for it three times as soon as you're buckled into your car-seat, "mangee, mangee, ma-a-a-a-ngee!" (like that old song, "Money, Money Mo-o-o-o-neh, Money!") And the way you run out of your room, with it clenched in your fist exclaiming, "found it, mangee!" like it had been buried in a pile of rubble for a decade, but was, in reality, only in the other room for a few minutes. It is the lovely way you give this world the benefit of the doubt, greeting every store clerk, customer, pedestrian and passer-by with a contagious smile and genuinely exuberant, "HIIIIIIIII!" I hate to imagine the day when someone will break the trust that you so willingly give and that one broken promise at a time, lenses of skepticism will form in front of your honest little eyes and you will be forced to observe the world from an appropriately "safe" distance with your guard up. I wish you could maintain the perfectly innocent and optimistic filter through which you sift your experience. The other day I was walking into the bathroom with a "product" that moms need during a certain week of every month, and when you heard the wrapper crinkle in my hand, your eyes went ablaze with excitement and you squealed, "Pop-a-cle!!" Oh Henry, I wish it were a popsicle, I really do. I wish everything in life were as innocent and sweet and good as it is to you now.
These last few weeks have been hard with daddy gone so much. The stress of nearly-single parenthood has stratched me so thin in some moments that you've seen my really unflattering spots--up close. I feel like I should apologize for those moments and grovel for your forgiveness, but I don't even have to. You don't make me do that like adults do when we offend each other. You're ready to "nuggow" with me in the instant that I stop scolding--no grudge, no silent treatment, not a hint of resentment or a memory of the miff. Perhaps I can teach you about numbers and colors, but you have taught me about love that is too big to count and life that is more vivid than rainbows.
It's all these things and a hundred hundreds more, Henry, that make you so dear to me...that bring real live tears to my eyes when I come to terms with the fact that this delightful little stage will end. And now that I've put all these tender feelings out in the ether, I only feel nearer to bursting than I did before. But I've learned something about this near-to-bursting sensation, and that is that I'll never actually burst, but that my heart has this wonderfully elastic quality that allows me to love and adore beyond my wildest imaginations of what I thought possible before there was you.
Love you forever...