19 July 2007

She Said, He Said

Stella said, “I love you.” She said it to me for the first time before bed last night. She said it again tonight. We’ve never taught her to say it like we have with please and thank you. A few times I asked her who she loves and she ran a list of her friends and relatives: “Baraka, Althea, Dani, Pop Pop, Grandmom, VoVo, Paka [our dead cat], Marmalade [our other dead cat].” Mama and Papai didn’t make the list, and I didn’t press for it (heartbroken and confused as I was). She has said, “I love apples.” And, “I love rain.” But this declaration of love in the moments before singing and sleep was from a totally different planet. It was a little shy, like hearing it from a nervous boyfriend for the very first time.

My first reaction was complete joy. But as with each milestone, those grownup words let me see my baby slipping away. Today I got my latte and browsed the bookstore with Otto strapped to my back and Stella home with the in-laws. It was the first time I put him in the Ergo carrier, and as I skipped hands-free out our door, I remembered those easy days with Stella. Those pre-verbal days with only me to decide which store to enter or how long to linger there. Those days before tantrums and elbows that always seem to land in a soft spot. And even as I felt grateful for Otto’s present infancy, I saw the future in fast forward. Pre-verbal is already slipping because now he’s saying- wonderfully, sweetly, sadly…. “Mama.”

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