12 months

Our daughter has been with us for a whole year. An entire revolution around the sun. We have been a family of three for 365 days, and I have loved every one of those days. Every hour. Almost every minute. A year ago a child shot out of my body like a cannonball. Today she crawled over to me, clambered into my lap, pulled herself upright on my shoulders and said “mmmmah.” There are no words in human language that express how this feels.

(Which confounds me. Didn’t we evolve language precisely to express just such abstract, sublime, profoundly human emotions and experiences? Isn’t that the point of it? And yet language fails me, even though I have never felt so human as I do as someone’s mother. As Natalie’s mother.)

She has words now, sounds with unmistakable meaning: dada, mama, uh-oh, and duh! which I think is her general-purpose demonstrative: That-Thing-I-Am-Indicating-To-You. I’m still convinced that she says duck and dog too, as well as several phonetic variations on kitty cat, which can range from “titi” to “tita” to, well, “duh.” And she can say “hi” (which sounds like haaaaa) and goodbye (which also sounds like haaaaa), while waving to you with a gesture that resembles turning a doorknob. Most of her utterances still resemble the gibberish spoken by science-fiction aliens, though: t’khol t’khol t’khol! or diggu diggu! or, sometimes, a continuous velar fricative stream that sounds like she’s working to dislodge an enormous loogie.

But she isn’t. She long ago ceased to spit up, has mostly finished drooling (we’re up to six teeth and counting), and generally has graduated from the effluvia of infancy to the unmentionable outputs of maturity, which I’ll do her the favor of not discussing on the Internet. She will, however, still spray pureed baby food into your face if you manage to sneak any into her mouth, but that’s your own fault, because she’s made it clear for AGES now that she eats only big-people food, thank you very much.

And she is a Big Person. This morning Natalie weighed in at twenty pounds, fourteen ounces, just an unmentionable output shy of 21 pounds (and the fiftieth percentile), and measured a solid 29 inches tall. Her pediatrician was pleased with her motor and verbal skills, but what truly impressed him was her habit of pointing at things, constantly. (Apparently this is a good indicator of the absence of autism. That’s good. Otherwise it would border on rude.) She is no longer a baby, but not yet a toddler, I don’t think: all of her efforts at walking still involve at least one anchor point, even if it’s just Mommy’s talismanic index finger that she grasps like Dumbo’s magic feather as she balances herself, takes a step, rebalances, and takes another step. I predict unsupported walking within weeks, if not days.

Tomorrow is Natalie’s first birthday party, a Saturday-afternoon fete at Nana and Grandpa’s house, with the weather predicted to be clear and warm enough for the numerous prepubescent guests to play in the playhouse in the back yard. I’ve baked a coconut almond cake which I’ll frost tomorrow morning; we’ve ordered barbecue from Red Hot & Blue and chocolate-covered strawberries from CakeLove; and Grandma Barbara came down from New Jersey with a bag full of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Natalie’s godfather Patrick even flew in from San Francisco to join the festivities. We’ll toast the first year of her life surrounded by family, friends, good food and good company, and Noodles will have her first officially sanctioned taste of refined sugar. (I think they may have snuck her some Teddy Grahams at day care. But we’ll pretend that never happened.)

She’ll remember none of it, of course; in all likelihood she’ll remember nothing from this entire year. But we’ve now laid the foundation stones, the roots, the subconscious basis for the person she’ll grow up to be; the person she is already becoming, more and more every day. And I am as delighted with the outcome as I’ve been throughout the entire process.

I hope she is, too.

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