My little girl, you are three years old today. Which means I have known this love in my heart for 1096 days. A love I cannot control or suppress, an all-consuming love that is with me everywhere I go, in every moment I breathe. Happiness is the sight of your wild curls, the sound of your running feet, the accent of your wispy voice, and the smell of your breath as it comes from deep inside of you.
You know I am crazy about you, and you also know I’m not the only one. You know who else loves you and where you are called, and you are not afraid to travel. Yesterday, you climbed up the shelves in your closet (this was the only explanation) to retrieve your duffel bag. You packed it with quite a bit of clothes and announced you were getting on an airplane to visit your grandparents in Atlanta. Then, you packed snacks. I often find the odd orange or apple or banana in a shopping bag in a corner or under a table, fruit you had promised to bring to Grammy. It makes sense. She brings you something every time.
When Grammy comes over, you’re so excited that you can’t take it and you run away from her. Your signature half-smile plays upon your whole face, evocative and coy, when you’re trying not to smile. It’s like you can only take acute joy in small doses; you are sensitive to both joy and suffering. At an indoor playground last week, you took me to a girl, only slightly smaller than yourself, crying quietly on the top of the play boat. She was stuck. I helped her down and she went on her way, and you followed her to make sure she was okay. You put your hand on her shoulder. You cared. You always care. About your baby dolls and about strangers.
I said already that you know who loves you. Every time I see you climb so easily into the laps of one of your beloved aunties, whom you may have seen last week or last year, I am reminded of this. You have family and the kind of friends that are family, and I hope you know by the time you read this that you have the gift of immeasurable support. Hands to help you up when you fall and voices to sing you happy birthday.
For months, you’ve been looking forward to your third birthday. “Whose birthday is next?” you always ask, because you like to keep track of these things. You requested a princess party, and a princess party you received. Complete with castles and fairy princess wands and knights with swords. Before the party, we took a special trip to the same store I loved as a girl (Claire’s–where you got your ears pierced) and we bought you a princess tiara. You chose not the “Birthday Girl” nor the “Birthday Princess” nor any of the flashy rainbow crowns. You chose an elegant, somewhat understated tiara with a hanging “crystal.” Your sense of style, particular and impeccable, never ceases to amaze me.
You want to wear only cardigan sweaters, and they must be unbuttoned, because you don’t want to cover up your pretty outfit. You slip into your flower girl dress at some point on most days. And every day, the contents of the same drawer ends up on the ground. The princess dresses. But as independent as you are about getting dressed and most everything else, you don’t feel the same way about sleeping. Every night, daddy and I make sure you fall asleep in your own room, in your own bed. The same bed I slept in as a child. But you find your way into our bed. Every night. And the truth is that I don’t care that you’re three years old and still co-sleeping. I am happy to tuck your sweet sleepy self under my arm and my covers. Three people in a queen bed is cozy, sometimes tight, but who better to be pressed up against than the love of my life and our daughter? I cherish every second.
Before I finish, you must know how capable you are, my dear child. You can do anything you set your mind to. I gave you the supplies to make goodie bags for your birthday party, along with instructions (one lollipop, one applesauce, and either one sword OR one wand), and you did it. You made treats for your friends, all by yourself. “By myself” is one of your favorite phrases. You remember things that I forget. You have the whole world at your feet, and I’ve a feeling you will never be afraid to travel it.
Giovanna Faith, I love you to the moon and back, times 1096 trips around the sun.