A few weeks ago, we took our yearly weekend trip to Galena with our dream team of patient child-free friends. It was hard not to compare the trip to last year’s, when I was so pregnant with you that I had drawn up emergency plans and maps for how we would manage your birth. There were all sorts of little changes but the biggest difference was that last year we did not know you.
Last year you were not there to demand a coffee mug of your very own with which to play drinking and drumming games, giggling all the while. You were not there to lay on your tummy on a sled, allowing your dada to pull you through the deep powdery snow, with your eyes and mouth wide open with the wonder and joy of it. You were not there to cuddle on our laps or to sit on the pool table gumming the balls.
It has been a year of giggles and squeaks and tummy raspberries and manic glee. A year of hands full of frozen blueberries and purloined crayons and hunks of cheese. A year of new tricks learned by watching and imitating and figuring things out on your own. A special and magical year.
This month you have quietly begun doing all sorts of things that I now remember working so hard to teach Ezra. You suddenly give giant open-mouthed kisses, full of tongue and ringed with your four tiny teeth. Just a few days into our new bedtime book routine, you are already eagerly gumming the book to give the animals a goodnight kiss. At Ezra’s gymnastics class a few weeks ago, you revealed that you understood how to get to the edge of something, turn around, and shimmy down on your tummy.
Eager to help you develop your walking skills, we got you a push cart toy a few weeks ago. You do love pushing it across the room, walking in a funny twisted sidestep that veers you into the wall every time, but what you really love to do is to climb into the cart and hold its handle from the inside. By pulling and pushing the slightly jiggly handle and bouncing yourself up and down, you can slowly but surely get yourself rolling. Usually backwards. Usually right into something.
Then, a few weeks ago, distracted in a massive crowd of families at a concert, you stood for a few seconds, rocking to keep your balance, and then took three tiny steps. You’re still not consistently interested in walking, but you’re getting there, with a few steps here and there each day. You’re onto my tricks though. When you raise your hands up to me to be picked up, I sometimes try to grab them and pull you to standing. When you see me trying that, you immediately hide your hands, cry out, then stretch them up again, so I understand that a full pickup is required.
You have always been an easy baby to make laugh, and as you get older, the hilarity has only increased. This month, your favorite is for me to drag the fingers of your free hand over my face, my eyelashes, my lips while you nurse. You giggle throatily and turn your eyes up to me, but keep right on nursing. You giggle when you grab your brother’s hair and when we play peek-a-boo and when I sing you crazy versions of our favorite songs and tickle your thighs and when I get Ezra’s gymnastics teacher to drop you down the giant slide into my waiting arms.
A year ago we did not know you, could not imagine how you would be different from Ezra, could not picture our life with a new baby. Now you are no longer a new baby, no longer a hazy idea of a person. You are our Zella Ruthie, right there in the midst of everything, grabbing and giggling, and we can’t imagine our lives without you.
Happy birthday, sweet girl.