before numbers. we lived together. it was before age, before skin to skin, before we made
one another's full aquaintence. you were growing, and this grew me. gestation they call it.
really, we just lived together. heel pressed into rib cage. your elbow an indention in my
abdomen. a mobile home; you walked with me everywhere. and sometimes i swore your
hand reached up high and rested underneath the thump of heart.
0. the night you are born, it snows. and after everyone has left, it is just you and me. and i
hold you, all wrapped up and close to me. it is so quiet. soft white over blurred lights
of city. and we stare out the window and watch the snow come down, for a long, long
- your first word was bird. "bud, bud, bud," you would say, standing at the window, jabbing chubby finger against glass, fascinated. you chased them in the park and on the street and sidewalks. you flapped at them from the car. and that this was your first word, and your love of them, and hearing you say it, again and again and again, it meant something to me. for reasons that have entire myths and generations behind them, this is when i knew i was no longer crazy. and i would never go back to the way it had once been.
- for an entire three months, you wore a soft fleece tiger costume. every single day. the only time you were without, was when it was being washed, and then it went right back on again. so much happened that fall, bringing changes, and i have often wondered if this is what you chose to keep as permanent and lasting those weeks of time. this soft orange fleece striped like a tiger, that matched the color of your hair.
- "this is before memory," i often think. knowing that you will in some way know things later, though you will have no way to actually go back and recollect. the way it's still stored but inaccessible. i will remember it all for both of us, i think. remember the way you eat your french toast. and how, after laughing hard, you let out this contended kind of sigh. your heath ledger denim jacket with sheep wool lining. the face you make, when you learn to roll your eyes. your toddler legs, walking you everywhere, laps on the track, the first rush of freedom. your attachments and affections and the clarity of your gutteral voice.
- your best friend moved away. after spending some part of every day together. after lemonade stands and trick-or-treat. after fighting and telling her that cats were dumb. after teaching her how to make cars loop on tracks. after shared meals and pre-school pick ups, and walking so many times, the two flights of stairs that separated your front door from hers. she was leaving. the night before they moved, you hugged each other and cried. "but she is my friend," you kept saying to me later, crying in bed. "she is my friend. i love her." and it was like knives twisting inside, to see your own heart hurting. your first real loss. there was nothing i could do, to make it better. but dear god did i want to be able to. all we could do was just be human together.
- i would do anything for you. i had suspected and believed this was true. that was the year i learned it was not just an idea but a living, breathing thing. i would do anything for you.
- you consider becoming jewish. you tell me you think you really, already, partly are. there are shabbat dinners that are like parties, with friends and tables of food and everyone drinking wine while crowded outside on the deck in summertime. seders, hanukkah instead of christmas, challah bread you made with her hands, candles and prayers and songs. words and worlds of your own.
- "talk to me. tell me what you're feeling," i say. and you shrug me off, make some face of minor annoyance and sigh and say "fiiiiiine". but then, there is this old see-saw at the park that is really meant for younger kids. still, we go there, because it's close. we get slurpees, and sit there, on either side, up and down, back and forth, teeter totter. nowhere else to be or get to, staring out at the park or street, sometimes right at each other's faces. and like finding the way in through the back door, you start to tell me things. this becomes the place we talk. you have always been straight with me.
- you make up complicated games involving cards you have made by hand, numbers, and systems, and formulas, and symbolic exchange. you problem solve, putting pieces apart and together. your brain is brilliance. your heart is kind. you make maps for all the things. you navigate when we are in the car, and sometimes, i want to open up your head and see inside, because i swear it would be lined with mapped lines weaving through you, showing the way forward and home.
- you are a builder, making things. only minutes after walking onto the beach, and you have already knelt down and are digging in sand, forming towers with driftwood. whole worlds on minecraft, which you eat and sleep and create and construct. and your newfound ease, a kind of belonging in the world. and there are road trips, and the long distances we have crossed in the car. wearing flannel and hoodies, listening to lorde, stopping at rests stops along the way, talking always about the highways and roads and who made the first streets and how did they decide to make it here, this way.
- now it is double digits. the clock will tick over to twelve, and you will be a year older. and i remember you at all the ages and i remember you before any of the ages.
between then and now, there are all the miles traveled, inside and outside. and here we are. the road is curving just up ahead. i don't know where it is taking you, anymore than i know where it will land me. but it's here, and it's yours for the taking, and you are turning ten.
- if ten was the year of adaptation, settling into something changed and moving forward, then eleven was transition into another place all together. all these endings and beginnings wrapped up together. two moves. our life no longer looking like it once did. the beginning of middle school, and how self assured you seem and also how open to the not knowing. a two day train trip to the mountains and a camera and boyhood and month to month, moment to moment, your face looks entirely different. changed. grown. walker between worlds.
your mind makes connections i never saw coming. your kindness teaches me. your questions and earnest effort smash and re-create what it is to be human.
you are so complete a person. you are just beginning.
you're so cool.
today, all the years collected as one turns into the next, and there is so much we are thrust into and so much we fumble to choose. you matter, and you are here, and today you turn twelve.