She turned three today. Today three years ago I was numb breasts down, unable to feel pain but experiencing quite vividly the sensation of being a frog at the dissection table- jerked and tugged from the innards out, and pause- then the scratch kitten cry of my sweet baby, my Kinny, my beautiful two colored eyed dynamo, a ball of non stop energy, curiosity and determination with heavenly sweet spots of adorable hilarity and charm. She is my Tiger eyes- 'my', I can still write- at three, she still clings to me and me alone in that singular flame still tethering us between bellies and breast, her head on my abdomen as she falls asleep at night, her hand in mine as she takes me to a creation, her calls for Mommy! Mom!, her eyes meeting mine, her arms around me and one fat hand curved around my neck, her sweet breath on my face, her silky thin hair feathering through those impossible long, thick eyelashes as she laughs hysterically again, her perfect complete weight in my lap.
She is afraid of loud noises that sound like cows and has a tentative agreement with vacuums and lawn mowers, easily broken if they get to close.
She loves us, Curious George, the red park, the train station down the block from our house, cereal and milk, 'sugars' ( probiotics) in her orange juice, hide and seek, Daddy's truck, Dakota's phone, Ian's game of come and get me, Lola's room, bath time, swimming, rain, Halloween, Christmas, running, jumping, tickling, singing, music of all kinds but especially Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, orchestra and Christmas music, snuggles, nursing, chunky kisses, the wide wide world, building blocks, cars, digging, kitchen play, chocolate, pizza, Rubios ( black beans, chips and quesadilla or tilapia ), Mickey and Minnie Mouse, books, reading, Emily- Lola's best friend and a lover of Ever, or 'Tinny' as Emily calls her, which is Everkins shortened to Kinny changed to Tinny, Barnes and Noble, the sky and sun and moon, our bed, our house, life.
Here's classic Ever Elizabeth: I am on the computer, which is next to my bed. Out of the corner of my eye I see Ever slide silently onto the bed and underneath covers, then just as silently pulling an enormous and heavy heap of sheets and comforters onto her body. I wait. Nothing. Not one movement or sound. I wait and wait and it's been five minutes and I can't stand it anymore; I'm starting to get creeped out. So I say Ever? Ever? and nothing- not a giggle or flinch. I find a toe sticking out and fling the covers off of her, and she is lying with an entire pack of forbidden Trident gum clutched in both hands against her tiny breast and a huge wad of chewing gum in her mouth. She meets my eyes. MMMMMMM, she says.
Ever has one of the most effective smiles I have ever seen, if the purpose of a smile is to give the impression that the heavens have parted and the sun is shining with all its might and life is new and beautiful again and joy is possible and real. Which of course it is. I absolutely adore the way her nose looks when she smiles, the way it flattens just so against her face and the creases from nose to mouth deepen- I often leap over to her yelling I WILL KISS YOUR FACE OFF YOUR FACE and she shrieks happily and I kiss her all over her face, often ending up kissing every inch of her.
When Dakota was an infant, I once read that psychologists did a study which showed that babies and children who were touched in affection all over their bodies had better body images and more self confidence, and I never forgot it. With each child I playfully smack or pinch or kiss every part of their bodies until they get sick of it, sometime around three or four. Ever sometimes stops and says ' Mommy do not smack my chunky booty right now. ' It is all I can do to answer seriously, ' OK, sweetie. '
In Target this morning we were almost at the toy aisle, when Ever, apropos to nothing, stopped, squatted and did a startling imitation of twerking, while singing at the top of her lungs ' you can't get my chunky booty, you can't get my chunky booty ' There was a young mom with an infant in her arms to our right who turned bright red and burst out laughing simultaneously. I could tell she didn't know if she should be horrified or delighted. I say go with delight. I can tell you from raising Lola that a child prone to singing or doing such things at three has no baring on their tendencies at older ages. Lola is an extremely proper young lady and sometimes I feel she must be slightly mortified to have such a weird and impulsive mother, but she assures me it's a nice balance. So nice of her.
My days with Ever often remind me of camping in some remote area of wilderness. One moment it's thundering, storming rain, soaking the campsite and ruining hours of manual labor that must be repeated as soon as possible, keeping you up all night and waking you from light sleep to find that someone has turned over all the dog bowls and thrown the dog food to the bears! And then the sun breaks, the clouds wring their rags of the grey and shake themselves into a pearly white glow and the sky opens it's wings over the trees and you are in tears with the joy and beauty and magic of life. After ten minutes, you are berating yourself for not being able to hold onto that magic when confronted with the entire contents of your backpacks strewn across the campsite and your best sunglasses broken and in the fire pit.
Ever is smart as a whip. After a year where I had to again and again and again day after day coax her to sit and listen while I read, she now reads to herself off an on all day, at least three times a day usually more, and has memorized many of her books, word for word. I read to her twice a day. She knows where we are and when she does not, she asks why I'm taking the wrong road. ' Which way are you going Mommy? ' She knows if we are on the way to Grandmas, or the store, or Starbucks, or Lola's school. She still has baby talk but an extensive vocabulary. She asks questions all day. What is that, how does this work, show me this, why is that… She counts to 20 and knows her ABC's and shapes. She memorizes songs after three or four hearings.
She never stops moving, learning, laughing, crying, demanding, apologizing, kissing- she never stops. Her vitality is absolute and although it exhausts me, conversely or more true to life, parallel, provides endless rejuvenation for me, just when I think I've hit my limit with the house, or the dogs, writer's block, family- whatever the issue, however small or large, when I look at her, it's an absolute truth, and she meets my gaze directly and breaks into that smile, I feel love wash over and through me and am released of anger, fatigue, resentment, irritation. I am brought back into connection.
Right now, she is still mine. Very soon, she will start breaking free in small but persistent ways. For each of my children, three has been an age where they realize their own personhood in a profound way, and there is something altered in our bond that feels almost like a physical disconnection, a phone hanging up. The realization of selfhood begins to inform their reality, and my adult awareness of connection is so dependent on the power and intensity of a child's reality of connectiveness that when their brain begins to inform YOU ARE NOT A PART OF YOUR MOTHER YOU ARE YOURSELF I feel it deeply.
For now I feel the energy and connection between us physically. When I am away from her for longer than a few hours, I start to feel a sense of free falling in my body, like phantom pains. We have not been apart for longer than four hours, as was with all my children, and somewhere along this third years, that might change, too. For now, it is perfection as it is. This part of my children's lives is the most simple for me. While absolutely physically exhausting and in all ways engulfing, I know what to do and how to do it. To give them love and security is everything. Everything. It sets the stage for every single important thing in life, from how they learn to how they form relationships to self esteem to how they view the purpose of human life. I watch my older children with their inner glow that is so attractive to other people and draws them near, and believe absolutely that this starts with love, at the very beginning, love and total security in at least one person and if they are so lucky, more than one person. Ever is so lucky, and has known nothing in her short and beautiful life other than complete and total trust and love and security. Even when she was hospitalized, Ed and I slept in her room for nine days, and never left her side, even the horrible dark hours where they pricked her entire body black and blue trying and failing to find a working vein, and she wailed and wailed in a horrible way I have never heard her do before or since- but- but- every time she opened her enormous, hurt and terrified eyes, either the face of her dad or her mom was right there, looking into her eyes, standing through the fear with her. I think that matters on a cellular level.
Ever is three. I love her more than I could ever express in poetry or prose, but I do try.