To my Second Son on his First Birthday

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Dear Andre,

You don’t know this, but today is your birthday. That’s the reason we’ve been gazing at you with wonder all week, saying things like “I can’t believe it.” It’s true. We can’t believe it—not just that you’re one, but that you’re here at all, and next year you’ll be walking and talking, and before we know it you’ll be leaving your stinky socks on the bathroom floor and hogging the computer. I have trouble picturing this future you. All I see are long legs and big feet. Still, here are some things I’d like you to know about this year.

1. First of all, good job coming out. You came fast a week before your due date, before I even had the chance to moan about how huge I was. You were smaller than I thought you’d be (thank you!), sweet and sticky with vernix. The first thing you did was latch on to the breast like you’d  already been nursing for months. The midwife joked that you came out to eat, and it was true—you ate and ate and ate. We brought you home and all night you slept on my chest and ate some more. I left the light on so I could see you. You were so tiny that I couldn’t sleep. I had to stay awake to make sure you were real.

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2. Did you know that your brother has always loved you? While you were born, he napped at our neighbor Kathy’s house, exhausted from waiting so long for your arrival. When he woke up, Kathy asked him if he wanted to go meet his new brother, and she told me that his face lit up like it was Christmas morning. Every morning since you’ve been born he says your name over and over in a crazy low voice, trying to make you laugh. It’s true that every day he comes close to knocking you over and in the bath he just can’t resist the temptation to pour water on your head and poke your butt, but he’s never once asked us to give you away. Image3. You spent your first summer in Colorado. Because of this, some things may be strangely familiar to you: thunderstorms and epic downpours, big changing skies, herds of elk, long slow walks. If later in your life wilderness feels familiar to you, more comforting than our sometimes busy, sometimes sleepy town, that’s why.  Perhaps it’s not kind of me, but I want you to long for wilderness, to be not quite happy in the city. Your other mom and I are both that way and I suppose we need our sons to feel a similar angst.Image4. Because you are the second child, you will never be the only one. Sometimes I grieve about this; I won’t come to know you in the same, undivided way I came to know your brother. Two days ago I spent the whole day with you alone. We read a book together, and you loved the picture of the lion, you loved it when I roared, and you roared too. That was new—your ability to see something, understand it, and apply it all within a minute, and I wondered if it was truly as sudden as it seemed. Maybe you’d been capable of this for weeks but I hadn’t noticed. How much have I been missing in this shuffle to get to work, to feed you, to put you to bed, to do all of those things with your brother as well?

5. From the time you were born, people have marveled at your super baby strength. You have a preternatural combination of will and muscle. For instance: One day I left you in your high chair with a snack, and then heard you wailing moments later. I ran in, assuming you had climbed out and tumbled to the floor. But you hadn’t. You had climbed to the kitchen counter, dropped your body down, and instead of falling hung on for dear life, dangling and crying but gripping the counter with only your bare hands. I have no idea how such tenacity will evolve as you grow older, but trust me: I’m certain this story is no accident. When you are a grown man, this will all make sense.

If you ever return to this letter, if you ever do read these words, know that all three of us—your two moms and one brother—have always adored you, even when we are pouring water on your head, or asking why you just won’t go to sleep, just as no doubt we will someday be shaking our heads wondering why you just can’t get your stinky socks inside the hamper.

Love,

MJ

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