(This was a subject of some debate. If you’re born on Christmas, when is your first Christmas actually — the day you’re born, or your first birthday? Genevieve’s daddy offered my favorite answer, which is that your first Christmas is the one where Santa comes for you. Last year, by the time Evie emerged, Santa had come and gone without noting her existence. This year she had her own stocking and a pile of presents addressed to her. Ergo, first Christmas. We’re calling it.)
I feel badly that we’ve kind of halfassed the “birthday” part of Evie’s Christmas birthday. I baked her a brown butter cake, put the girls to bed on Christmas Eve, and promptly realized that I could produce neither filling nor frosting for this cake without the noisy kitchen implements waking my sleeping angels. So I filled the cake with raspberry-apricot jam from the fridge and coated it with cinnamon-dark chocolate ganache, a hack involving Baker’s chocolate, light cream, and the microwave. Fortunately, at age one Genevieve is not a particularly discerning customer; she almost certainly would not have cared (or even noticed) if her birthday cake had come from the freezer, or the grocery store for that matter. In years to come we aspire to throw actual birthday parties for Genevieve with a target date of January 3, which conveniently happens to be St. Genevieve’s Day. But this year she’ll be content with a homespun birthday cake and her immediate family on Christmas, because she’s one.
Of note: the white satin birthday dress was Natalie’s first, but Evie got her own crown, not to be confused with the (similar, but distinct) birthday crown that Natalie wears. Also like her big sister, Evie now has one large candle that will sit astride her various birthday cakes and be re-lit each successive year. Natalie’s recurrent birthday candle is a ladybug. Evie’s is an elephant that I have carried with me, unlit, for several decades. The thought of a child of mine — one of a plurality of children, no less — adopting this elephant as a perennial birthday candle was the farthest thing from my mind when I purchased him in Harvard Square in 1996. But he had other plans. Now he belongs to my second daughter, and I was delighted to light him at last.
A quick developmental update, the last in a series (unless I somehow get better at blogging about my children once they outgrow infancy): Genevieve is 29 1/2 inches tall and weighs 21 lbs 6 oz, at or near the 75th percentile on both counts. The long-awaited canine teeth have yet to emerge, despite several rounds of fussy drooling and sleep disruptions; she’s still at eight teeth. Fortunately that’s all she needs to eat anything we’re having, or to gnaw on the protruding spout of her sippy cup (we furloughed the botbots several weeks ago, and will retire them for good as soon as we can get around to packing them away). She drinks cow’s milk, loves green beans and mac’n’cheese, and daintily ate her birthday cake without getting a speck of ganache on the white dress. (Contrast this to fig newtons, a favorite artistic medium which I now know never again to give to Genevieve in the car.)
She runs circles around the other babies in the infants room at daycare, and will soon be graduating to the toddlers room. Evie has taken so thoroughly to walking that she’s basically given up crawling, except in the evenings and mornings, when she’s too sleepy to balance upright. But once the kid wakes up properly, she is a perpetual motion machine, tearing down the path of life on two feet, so very, very ready to run.
My mother says that babies at their first birthday are either very verbal or very mobile. At this point in her life Natalie had multiple recognizable words but had yet to walk unassisted. Genevieve is the other side of that coin: she is quieter, willing if not excited to repeat sounds you make, vaguely aware that things have names…and a powerhouse of gross motor skills. Don’t turn around or she’ll be in the other room before you know it, reaching into the toilet or the fireplace or grasping at low-hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree. I took my eyes off her for thirty seconds while folding laundry and in that time, she had toddled out of the laundry room and silently hauled herself halfway up the basement stairs. She’ll scale entire staircases undaunted if you let her. Evie lives in a universe full of things to reach and grab and chew on and climb. For Natalie the world was, and is, a thing to observe, a cloud of dancing sounds and words and rhymes and songs. For Genevieve it’s a place of textures, objects, things to navigate and manipulate to her own ends. Watch, she’ll grow up to be an engineer.
Before my eyes she is growing up. We’re still breastfeeding, and she’ll still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes (she has done so for the past two nights, breaking her weeks-long streak of full nights’ rest). But it is unmistakably clear that my baby is no longer a baby. She is herself, her daredevil, thrill-seeking, mighty self. She will drink life to the lees. And I will toast her as she does.