So the actual day, the day that’s been anticipated by my daughter since she turned three, her fourth birthday, has come and gone. All the fanfare, the bouncy houses, the overflow of gifts and noise and sugar and attention have moved on, thankfully, to other homes. Here at the Murrays, we are quiet. Save for the newly initiated, and quite snotty at times, four-year old that’s moved in.
I have to say, this first week of Reese being four has thrown me for a loop. All of a sudden, seemingly overnight, my chubby, pot-bellied little baby has leaned out into a stringbean. All her softness seems to be disappearing right before my eyes. Everything’s too short for her ever-lengthening legs and too big for her shrinking waistline. She is so rarely out of her dress-up shoes and lip “glass” and play jewelry around the house, I’m starting to feel as though I’m living with an extremely petite – for lack of a better word – streetwalker. And she’s got the lip to go with the lip gloss – sassy and broody, I had no idea that my introspective, sensitive toddler was capable of such a dead-on imitation of Molly Ringwald in any John Hughes’ movie.
Still, just when she is at her sassiest, with a good dose of whining and crying thrown in for good measure, she has the nerve to still slay me.
Her: I want to live here with you and Dad and Brother forever.
Her: No really, forever.
Her: And I’m going to be a Mommy and a writer just like you.
Me: Well, where are you and your husband and your kids going to sleep?
Her: In your bed. You and Daddy can sleep in my bed and Brother will sleep in his bed.
Me: Well, it sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.
Her confidence and sureness about the world astounds me and just when I get comfortable with it, she reverts to infantile behavior that rivals her one-year old brother’s. For a person who is fond of consistency, let’s just say that this is not my favorite phase.
One thing that is my favorite, however, is the nighttime routine that has been our constant for maybe a year or more. I rock her in the rocking chair my mother rocked me in and we sing two songs. Something I pick and then always, always “The Brady Bunch” theme, for reasons too long to explain here. Then I carry her over to her bed and we say:
Her: Someday, maybe you and me and brother can _________________, just the four of us. (Characters and destination subject to change.)
Me: That would be great.
Her: Know how you get there? You go right, then left, then circle. (Directions subject to change). Then you get there.
Me: I love you.
Her: I love you.
Me: See you in the morning.
Her: See you in the morning.
Me: Sleep tight.
Her: Don’t let the bed bugs bite.
We hug, a good fierce one, my face lost in her curls and pillows and a million small stuffed animals.
We wave a small, special, secret wave.
On the long days, on the days where four feels like it’s on the cusp of puberty, this moment, and every other good moment I can strain out from my day with her, are the ones I hold onto. Then an hour later, on my way down the hallway, I look in on her, lying sidewise in her bed, a mess of arms and legs and sheets and dolls. She snores softly, her face lit with the glow of the nightlight and I think: how else could this be? Who else could rattle me endlessly, whittle me down to my last iota of patience and then, with one unconcious, sleepy snore boomerang me right back to the exact place where I feel in love with her almost exactly four years ago, a tiny, perfect newborn in my arms. A small, perfect, life-changing wonder.