Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 2010

Dear Oliver,
I decided long ago (long before you were born) that you could be whatever you wanted to be, so long as it makes you happy (and you stay healthy). Would I love you to be a doctor or a writer or Michelin starred chef? Of course I would. But if you become a secretary or an accountant or a cruise director, that will be fine too. Whatever floats your boat. Right now you're obsessed with the pipe on the front porch that drains our kitchen sink - at least I think that's what it does - and the mailman caught you standing at it, smiling, one afternoon. "Maybe he'll be a plumber", he said. And although I have to admit, it never occurred to me that plumbing would be your calling in life, I am 100% okee dokee if it is. Plumb away, my dear. (And while you're at it, tell me, does that pipe drain our kitchen sink?)

But there is one wish I have for you (aside from being a democrat - that one's a given): I want you to read. I want you to pour over books, losing track of time as you turn pages, sneaking flashlights into bed so you can finish one more chapter after I say lights out. I want you to insist on keeping the cereal box on the table while you eat, just so you can read the ingredient list *again*, not because it's interesting but because your eyes need to keep moving. I want you to love the smell of libraries, the sound of binding being cracked for the first time, the feel of pages rippling after getting accidentally dipped in the bath. I want you, from a very young age, to appreciate what books can give you and where they can take you. I want you to read.

I never read to you in utero. Your dad and I talked to you plenty (and I had an internal dialogue that I believe we shared) and I think that was enough. But once you were here we started turning pages immediately. I read the complete "Frog and Toad" collection while you nursed and daddy jumped right in with the big guns, picking up "Harry Potter". We'd read through picture books while you cried your sad, colicky cries and I learned quickly that the rhythm of some books calmed you for a moment. I memorized "Sheep in a Jeep" and "Toes, Ears and Nose" early on and when you would melt down in the car or the grocery store, reciting one of them at the top of my lungs usually got your attention long enough to stop and catch your breath. And for me to catch mine.

This house is buried under your books these days. Classics ("Beatrix Potter" cozies up alongside "The Giving Tree"), new-fangled fun (the Matthew Van Fleet books have been hot glued back together more times than I can count), endless board books (so many picked up at Target's 1 Spot - likely written by someone whose first language isn't English) and some of my childhood favorites ("Amelia Bedelia", "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs", there are so many). We read them together before naps and bedtime and when you're in need of some quiet time on mommy's lap. Sometimes you turn pages patiently, sometimes I don't get a chance to read the words as you speed by.

One day last week I left you playing in the living room while I got ready, always keeping my mommy ear tuned for unusual and dangerous sounds. After a few minutes I heard the scariest sound of all - complete silence. I quickly dropped my mascara and rushed to see you in whatever disaster you'd created. I stopped dead in my tracks when I found you, sitting quietly in the middle of a pile of books, studying the pages before you delicately turned them. Surrounded by toys and cats and all kinds of trouble, you chose to read. And you did it twice that day alone.

So whatever you become, whoever you decide to love, whichever life you decide to live, you have made me proud and made me happy. At the tender age of almost-13-months you've made my wish for you come true. Even if you don't love books* as you grow, you love them now. Thank you.


*I accidentally typed "boobs" instead of "books". I suppose the same can be said for them, though. Maybe you won't always love them either or maybe you will. But one thing's for certain - you definitely love them now!

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

Dear Oliver,
I don't remember doing the typical check for fingers and toes when you were born. I guess maybe I assumed someone would tell me if something was missing? I did call out to the room "he is a boy, right?" at some point before they brought you to me, though. And once I was all stitched up and we got to our room I realized that a number of people had seen your baby boy bits long before your mama had and I rectified that situation immediately. (Yes, I realize how wrong that sounds. But don't forget - I grew those bits inside my body, so until you can wipe for yourself I still have some claim to them.) But in scanning your precious little self in those first hours, acquainting myself with the boy who would be in my life forever, I noticed one imperfection. A tiny thing, really - just a little hole in your left ear, on the bit closest to your head, where a rebellious teen might get a piercing and regret it later on. I asked the pediatrician what the hole was, expecting to be told it was temporary, and found that it was a birth "defect" - one that you'd always have.

Instantly that little hole became my very favorite physical characteristic of yours. I loved your eyes, your bright blue eyes. And I could've eaten your sweet, perfect little nose (one that contrary to the ultrasounds, did not look a thing like Abe Vigoda's. Whew.). You have dimples sometimes. Dimples! (Remind me to tell you someday about when I used to try to burrow dimples into my own cheeks. That's how much I like dimples.) But still, the pseudo piercing in your tragus made my heart stop more than anything else. I think because it's unique to you - a physical manifestation of your individuality, right from birth. Or maybe it's because I always secretly fancied myself a bit punk.

But then, about a month ago, something miraculous happened. One morning, while we were standing in the kitchen, you raised your arm, extended a finger and pointed. Delighted by your new skill, I took you to the thing you were pointing at (a crystal bowl your grandma gave us which I have always hated and you, of course, adore. I mean, who spends $400 on a bowl that has no practical purpose whatsoever when we had place settings left on the registry? But I digress.). As I was saying, you pointed, I followed and fireworks exploded above our heads. There was an instant dawning of comprehension on your part, an immediate understanding that you could use that perfect little finger to tell me what you wanted. That first point was the gateway to an absolute addiction. You've been crawling for months now, but why crawl when you can point your way somewhere? Things, like the odd little door stopper at the top of your closet door, that were previously out of reach and which I never would've thought to show you, were suddenly at your fingertips. Literally. If the wrong parent was holding you the finger would stretch out, begging for new arms to hold you. That finger became your lifeline and I love it.

I never realized how important pointing would be to your overall development. I never stopped to consider that it would be your first means to communicate not only that you want something, but to differentiate *what* you want. I didn't understand, before you did it, that pointing would open up a whole world in our daily dialogue. Or that it would lead to an actual dialogue (or the rough draft of a dialogue, anyway). You point to a bird, I say bird. Next thing you know we're reading a book with ducks in it and you're all "bird bird bird". Remarkable.

So I have a new favorite body part. I adore the pinprick in your ear and always will, but it's never going to thrill me (or you!) like that finger does right now. Someday someone will tell you that it's rude to point, but don't believe them, Ollie. Coming from you it's not rude - it's absolutely beautiful.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010

Dear Oliver,
My Oliver. My Ollie Robin. My Ollie-Monster.

Oh the places we have been in the past 13 months. Literally speaking, we've rarely gone much farther than 10 miles from our house (and often not much farther than the living room from the bedroom) but figuratively speaking we've travelled the world. You've grown from being the mysterious ache in my belly, wedged in my ribs and rolling in giant waves just under my skin, to a helpless, screaming, scared little bird, dependant on me for any comfort or joy or security. From a baby, curious but timid in facing the world around him to a toddler (admittedly who isn't yet quite toddling) who is discovering he has a voice, a personality, a sense of humor. In just 13 months you have grown more than my heart could've dared to imagine. (I foresaw the broad strokes, but it's the tiny details that make you who you are. And you are so much.)

I haven't written much about these days and I don't know why. I suppose in the very early days I didn't have a moment (or a brain cell) to spare to write it down. You were so all consuming - in good ways and in less good ways - and blogging didn't appear anywhere on the list. To be honest, many days showering wasn't on the list and toothbrushing made the to-do list, but didn't always get checked off. (Yes, it was that heavy in those first weeks.) And then I settled into a routine but got stuck in the routine of that routine. I was adoring you and loving you, but I couldn't see the joy or the beauty or the fun in so much of it. It was there, I'm sure, but my mind was clouded with milestones not yet reached and a yearning for a solid night's sleep. But slowly I awoke and could see you for the beauty that you bring. I had a full palette of your colors to paint from. And yet I still didn't write.

I'll be honest. I thought I'd remember. I thought I would never forget your firsts. Your quirks. Your passions and your fears. I thought I would remember each little moment and be able to recite them to you as I tickled your feet and nuzzled your sweet neck and rocked you to sleep while you grew. Each change was a revelation, each new skill monumental - how could I let them fade from my memory? I couldn't. I wouldn't.

But that was before you *really* blossomed. Before I realized that your revelations would no longer come monthly or even weekly, but daily. Hourly. You would change and grow in unexpected ways before my very eyes. Like time lapse photography I have watched you become almost recognizable from the Oliver of a week ago. And the week before that. You are a wealth of discovery - each moment ripe for a new development, be it teeth or skill or just your budding personality. It's all too much for my mind to take in, much as it wants to stretch to accommodate every eyelash and freckle, every bug bite and swollen gum, (with a tooth begging to poke free).

So, my Ollie Robin Boy, I'm going to do it. I'm going to write you, to tell you all about the boy you are becoming. I'm going to grab the moments as they flit past and pin them like butterflies to corkboard. This will be my space - our space - to revel in the minutiae of our lives. To see the tiny details and the broad strokes. To paint your beautiful colors and to savor each line as they come together to draw you as the amazing creature you are. YOU.

These will be my letters to you, sweet baby.

Letters from your mama.