You’re about to turn one. One year old.
When you are grown, “one” will seem like barely an age—still a baby! But right now it feels huge. A whole year.
You’re walking. You say “mama” and “dada” and “nigh nigh” and that’s about all, but what else do you really need?
Your teeth have just started to come in. You’re the only baby in our family to learn to walk while still sporting a big toothless smile. Then the teeth hit, one, two, three, each a week apart. The next few are all trying to sneak in at once.
And I haven’t written down the dates that any of them appeared.
I could say, apologetically, that it’s because you’re the sixth baby in this family, and we’ve lost track of baby book milestones, but that isn’t true. I was equally terrible about keeping track for babies one through five. Recording firsts is not among my skills.
Those moments don’t define you, anyway. Not you, and not your brothers and sisters before you.
(Every once in a while one of your siblings will ask what their own first word was. I make the safe bet and say I think it was “dada,” even if that’s only kind of a word.)
But some things really are different for you, being sixth.
Your parents are about 3.7 years short on sleep, at this point. But we know, truly soul-deep KNOW, that this bit of parenting–this part with you being squishy and soft, and us being your favorite things on earth–we know it will be over in a flash, and soon you’ll be asking to borrow the keys to the hovercraft. Or whatever it is young people will do in The Future. We aren’t rushing it.
Being sixth means you have–wait for it–FIVE OLDER SIBLINGS. That means you might get less of me, but it also means you’re held by a stronger, wider web of others. It means more arms to catch you, to tickle your feet, to push your swings, to collect the blocks so you can dump them out yet again. It means more voices exclaiming when you look up, so proud, after demonstrating your latest trick. It means more peek-a-boo partners, more roll-the-ball buddies, more help and more play and more laughter. It means more sympathy when you cry.
I’ve been looking over the photos of your birth. There is a series where everyone else is asleep. Our midwife, napping. Your sisters, asleep on the floor of the bedroom. Your daddy, asleep with his hand on my back.
This was understandable. It was two o’clock in the morning.
But I was awake, and I was never alone. They took turns, and always someone was there.
You know what this is like.
I can see you—your Evelyn-ness— in even the very first photographs, the ones where you have toothpick legs and still-wrinkled feet. You don’t look like that any more, but it was you. It was always you.
The seed of all you will be, all you will know, all you will love was right there, all along, in you. I can see it still. You grow and change every day, and while it’s not the case that we always get BETTER with time, I think we might always get TRUER. You, at least, become more yourself every day.
We didn’t name you right away, at the birth, in the before-dawn hours. We weren’t sure who you were, yet.
We christened you later, sunshine pouring in the window over the tiny girl (you!) in my arms: Evelyn Beatrix. It means light, and life, and joy.
It doesn’t mean you have to feel those things every day. It means they’re planted deep within you. It means they were always there.
It means we choose to turn toward them, that we will try, every day, to look for the light, to dwell in that which gives life, to move forward in joy. It means we will remember these things.
Evelyn Beatrix. It means you.