Saturday, February 19, 2011

In the Winter You Were Born

My dear daughter,

In the winter you were born, in the month you were born, in the city where you were born, a record amount of snow fell. White flakes floated, or blew, or raged from the sky almost continuously, a trend that continued as your birth month passed and a new year began. You cuddled in in the arms of your family, while they huddled inside the house, staying warm and waiting for brief respites from the winter weather in which to venture out from the confines of a safe and cozy abode. You rode in a backback on your mother's chest one warmish morning while she tromped through a forest path in snowshoes, your big brother in a red sled pulled behind your father while he, too, snowshoed between the trees, leafless and draped with a heavy, wet blanket of white. You traveled similarly through the farmer's market on Saturdays when the weather was above 20 degrees (your mama's cutoff for taking you out), wrapped in a blanket so warm, soft and beautiful she was stopped by strangers to ask where she got it. But mostly, that winter, you stayed in. Snuggled on the couch alongside your daddy's legs when mama's arms and shoulders ached from holding you all day, or tucked into the fold of your brother's lap while he listened to stories. In the winter you were born, you were welcomed by mother nature in the form of a wild, white storm that lasted so long it was as if father time fell sound asleep in the corner couch at your coming-home-from-the-hospital party and was forgotten, failing to move forward to spring, suspended in that wild, white winter.

In the winter you were born your big brother outgrew his afternoon nap, and moved from diapers to underwear, and learned that letters had sounds, and sounds started words, and he could match those letters to their corresponding sounds and words if he wanted to. He sang the alphabet song loud in your little ears while you tried to eat, and sleep and lift your head to give him goofy grins which only encouraged him to sing his song again, louder. He listened for your cries and rushed to find you as soon as he heard them. He gave his parents advice on how to calm you when you fussed and he laughed out loud when you looked at him and when you made sounds, saying: she talking at me! In the winter you were born he asked, again and again, I me? And you Mommy? And that Daddy? And that our baby? We a family? And again and again, your mother told him yes. Yes, we are a family.

In the winter you were born your mama got to spend the season as a full-time stay-at-home-mom, leaving work just days before winter officially started, and returning on the first day of spring. She was scared of the season, of the constant cold and the stuck-inside and the cabin fever aspects of the whole endeavor, but in the end, she was happy, and nothing she feared was nearly as bad as her imagination had whispered that it might be. Which is a good thing to remember all your life, because it often works out that way, and so it's important to be brave. In the winter you were born your mother, who almost never left the house over the course of those frigid months, managed to catch a virus one Saturday when she did venture out into the winter weather to take you to a birthday party with your brother, to celebrate his friend's turning three. Fortunately, you did not get sick, and neither did your brother, so your mama just hunkered down and whisper-read stories through her sore and sorer and sorest of throats for over a week --it felt, at times, like the longest week of her life-- and when the pain began to lessen she realized she had only one month left at home with her babies. And she was sad. Because the winter you were born was a magical winter for your mama, and despite her deep and abiding love for the arrival of spring, in some ways she wanted the winter you were born to last forever. In some ways she wanted father time to stay asleep.

In the winter you were born your daddy spent a lot of time outside of the house with a shovel in his hands. He fixed a snowblower before you were born, but it broke again shortly after you entered the world, and was too expensive to fix a second time. He went to work early each morning, and came home happy to see you, to take you into his arms and ooooh and goooo at you until you smiled your silly smile, where the corner of your lip curls up and the rest of your mouth opens wide and exhales an aaaah or maybe it's a haaaa in appreciation of his efforts. In the winter you were born your father felt buried, sometimes, under snow and stress and the pressures of providing for a family of four. And so your mama sent him down into the basement, where he keeps his art supplies, and told him to dig into his materials, and not to come up until he had used his hands and his eyes and his heart to create some sort of order out of the chaos he kept safely from the rest of his family with all of his hard work.

In the winter you were born, you didn't care much for the motor skills you were supposed to work on. Tummy time was a waste of time, as far as you were concerned, and holding your head up was fine, as far as that sort of thing goes, but even though it was your very first season here in this big, bad world, what you really wanted to do was to stand up. You took every opportunity to push your feet firmly into whoever's thighs might be available and heave your torso up into the air above those thighs, head a-wiggling and arms a-wobbling, and a look on your face like you've both discovered and conquered the greatest adventure in the world at the verysametime. In the winter you were born you showed us what you were made of and it was: determination.

And right from the very first winter you were born: we were delighted by everything we saw in you.


  1. Ok I'm really really super serious now. You must write a book, and soon. I command this for selfish reasons, as I know it would be beautiful and I'd want to read it on a night like this, and I would read it straight through, only to slow down during the last few pages so that it won't end. Then I'd hug it and start it again.

    Your writing is beautiful, your family is beautiful and you are beautiful.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your daughter's first winter. I'm happy to hear you stumbled upon a potty training method that works, and sorry to hear about your illness and the loss of toddler naps. It's the afternoon nap (still 3 hours on average, crossing my fingers it lasts a while more) that keeps me sane.

  3. Your "In the winter you were born your mama got to spend the season as a full-time stay-at-home-mom" part made me cry. It's where I'm at right now. When spring comes I'll be going back to work too. Even though I hate the cabin fever and cold, I too wish Father Time would sleep forever. What a lovely and bittersweet way of saying it.

  4. Seriously...beautiful. With each passing season comes moments of joy and so many memories. It's how I mark just about everything in my life too.
    Thanks for your kind words today.

  5. This is just wonderful. A beautiful tribute to your family of four. :)