Sisters: 5 years and (nearly) 1 year

They make my life brighter and deeper. Something bottomless lives inside of them. I see it in their eyes. When they feel joy, it soaks through to me, and for a brief moment, chaos becomes peace. I sense the precision in a leaf’s fall to the ground. I see the inherent beauty of flaws, the growth brought by discomfort, the pain that forces us to expand our notion of happiness and lack thereof.

When I drop off Giovanna at preschool, I like to loiter a bit. I put Skyla down and I let her interact and inevitably someone says, “what a smiley baby.” Regardless of how loudly she screamed in the carseat just a moment earlier, or how soundly she slept until I gently lifted the carseat out of its base in the vain hopes that she might stay sleeping (she never does), she still finds it in her to smile at people when they smile at her.

During these drop-offs, Giovanna loves to swoop in and pull Skyla onto her lap and assert her ownership. She kisses her baby sister and coos at her and tries to walk her around by standing behind her and holding her by the hands and encouraging her to take steps.

Lately Skyla has taken to rewarding her big sister with a giant open-mouth on her face. In the mornings when GiGi comes in to snuggle, in the evenings when the day accumulates with rambunctious delirium, in the in between moments, between giggles and head wiggles and tickles. Skyla goes in for the kiss by grabbing a fistful of GiGi’s bobbing curls and pulling herself towards her big sister. Then we all squeal and coo and I get that good full feeling of being whole rather than broken, complete rather than fragmented.

Back to the head wiggles. Skyla has a way of wiggling her head back and forth that is less like a nod or shake and more a dance move or a bobble-head impression. Sometimes she does it when she is so super excited about something that she can’t believe her good fortune. It’s like the “thank you” before she picks up the new toy or the blessing before she eats something delicious. She wiggles her head to the beat of a good song. She wiggles her head when we prompt her by wiggling our own heads. And she wiggles her head for no discernible reason but the simple joy of existing.

We’re not sure where she picked up the head wiggle, it could be an innate gesture, though we do suspect GiGi, whose curls are often bouncing, had something to do with it. They’ve begun to play together, or at least side by side. Snatching dolls and building block towers and knocking them down. Mostly, though, their play includes hugging and holding and kissing. Two little animals showing their love the best way they know how.

This is only the beginning for these two. God willing, they have a lifetime to learn from and delight in one another. Meanwhile, I’ll be in the background, facilitating their childhoods with a gentle hand and soft voice (one can hope), and writing my way through the bittersweet thick of it.


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