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A Letter To Cora

Dear Cora:

Your second birthday will be upon us next week, and I can’t
help but fall back on that old cliché and wonder where the
year went. You seem exactly the same to me every day –
ineffable, unchangeable, and then I blink and you’re somehow
this whole other creature, exotic and unknown. Before I look around
and discover I’m planning your graduation party, I want to
tell you a few things.

You, my love, are the sweetness in my day,
the piece of chocolate waiting for me after a hard workout. Your
smile is infectious, a happy bug waiting to be spread. Whenever I
download pictures from the camera, I find myself going into a
trance, mesmerized by your smile as I review the pictures. I
don’t think it’s possible to take a bad picture of you,
and though your beauty is great, I think it’s your joy that
sends you over the photogenic top. Your delight simply shines
through in every situation.

Except, of course, when you’re not happy.

When Cora’s not happy, everyone within a two-mile radius
knows about it. You’re still at that stage where you’re
(hopefully) learning to control your emotions, and while
you’ve come a long way on the hitting and biting, you often
stand stock still, a bundle of frustrated energy, and scream loudly
when thwarted. And even as I’m supposed to be training that
out of you, I can’t help but sympathize and even secretly
admire your lack of inhibition: life is making you angry, and
you’re going to let it out, dadgum it. I sometimes wish I
could stand on a stool myself and scream when I don’t get a

You love books just as much as your big sister, and have begun
memorizing them and reading them back to yourself. I love catching
you unawares, sitting in a sunbeam with a book across your lap,
weaving a wonderful story. When you go to bed at night, you greet
each book with anticipation and joy, as if they’re both
long-lost friends and a new surprise. I love watching you chuckle
over a story you’ve heard a hundred times – a fish in
Thomas’ tank, how crazy! – or even chant along with me
– “Click, clack, MOOOOOOOOO!” you’ll say
around your pacifier. (Yes, you’ve still got that pacifier,
but hopefully not for long. But let’s not ruin this good
moment with that conversation just yet.)

You’re still digging flamingos, though I think your heart
belongs to Thomas and the gang at Sesame Street – most
notably Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster. When you go to sleep,
you’ve got your crib favorites forming a halo around your
head: your little monkey, beloved flamingo, small giraffe, lion,
tiny panda, and puppet panda. Others may come and go for a nap or
two, but those linger on reliably.

Most of those stuffed animals have been given to you by your big
sister, who I believe wins the prize for adoring you the most.
Though you’re rapidly catching up to her in size, she still
loves to pick you up and squeeze you tight when you say good night
to each other. Some days Maddie will turn to me and say
wonderingly, “Isn’t she just the cutest baby?” As
you sit side by side in the car, you’ll compete to see who
can make the other person laugh the most, and Maddie usually wins,
simply because you find everything she does screamingly funny.

For this adoration is definitely reciprocated – you love your
big sister wholeheartedly. You usually get up first – digging
breakfast the way you do (and then of course there’s that
sleep thing) – and when you hear Maddie come downstairs your
face lights up and you begin bouncing up and down in your high
chair, straining to see her just seconds sooner. You’re
usually the late riser with naps, sleeping later than Maddie and
needing some transition time rocking with Mommy in your room
immediately afterwards, but once you finally surface into coherence
your first words are almost always, “Is Maddie

And speaking of words – kid, are there any you don’t
know? I asked you today to go get something for me and you said,
“Weeeeeeeeellll, I probably won’t be able to. I
don’t think I’ve ever seen that thing before.”
And I thought to myself, Are you really not quite two years old?
You struggle diligently to get long words to come out right, saying
them two or three times slowly until you get as close as you can.
I’m always amazed at your sophisticated syntax, your complex
grasp of time and of ideas like Yesterday and Later. I never know
what’s going to come out of that mouth, and often wish I had
a tape recorder on hand so people would believe what I hear.

You’ve got a self-confidence that CEOs would envy, and
absolutely no insecurities or hang-ups that I can see. You love
taking your clothes off around the house, and will drop the last
item before running and saying, “Nakey, nakey, nakey,
nakey!” dancing like a monkey as you go. You never doubt
yourself, and can be quite serious when people aren’t giving
you their full attention or when you see a wrong that needs
righting. “Madeweine Wucy!” you’ll shout
imperiously if you see Maddie disobeying across the street while
outside playing.

Cora, I think – half hopefully, half fearfully – that
you might well be destined for the stage. If Maddie loves dress-up
and inventing elaborate worlds in which to pretend, you absolutely
adore dancing. Put on ballet music and your eyes glaze over and you
begin moving only for yourself. There’s an
unself-consciousness to your dancing I wish I had achieved as a
professional, and I find myself wanting to speak in whispers when I
spy you dancing, so reluctant am I to break the spell. Maddie and
her friends might be whirling around, giggling and laughing, and
you are moving silently, slowly, reverently through your dance. I
feel privileged to catch a glimpse.

That’s not to say you don’t love dressing up - I
can’t count the number of times you’ve changed costumes
three, four, five times a day. Largely you favor Abby Cadabby, Zoe,
and a couple specific tutus, but even more so you adore jewelry.
You’ll crack open that green leather jewelry box filled with
my old costume jewels and you’ll adorn yourself with
necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings. I often see you
heavily-laden with diamonds, a pair of angel wings, a skirt, a
diaper, and nothing else. These are the photos I’m saving for
your prom night.

I think your one hang-up is the whole Mommy Love thing. Child, if
Mommy’s in the room, no one else will do. Mommy has to put
you in your high chair, Mommy has to brush your teeth, Mommy needs
to sit criss-cross-applesauce so you can snuggle in the
“nest”. If I’m in another room, then Gamma or
Daddy are just fine for getting on shoes or even snuggling, but
catch one whiff of Mommy and it’s all over.

This is personified, I think, in your obsession with my hair. Your
absolute favorite thing in the world to do is sit in my lap with
your pacifier, Silky, and a lock of my hair in your hand. You like
to brush it across your face, tease it over your eyes, even tickle
your mouth with it. Sometimes you’ll go so far as to lie down
on the stairs with your Silky for a little break, then shout,
“I need Mommy’s hair!”

The Mommy Love thing can get old, I admit, but I’ve also got
to confess that I breathe you in like a drug every time
you’re on my lap. I know you’re attached to me, but I
see such an independent streak in you that I’m absolutely
positive that one day you’ll wake up and quit me cold turkey
and never look back, and I’ll be the one jonesing for a Cora
fix. Sometimes when you’re tired you’ll sneak up behind
me, wrap your arms around my neck, and simply melt into my back,
content to lie there imprinted upon me, boneless and still. These
are the moments I drink up mightily.

But enough about you – let’s talk about me. I have to
confess that I spent most of your first year wishing it were over,
not because of you but simply because of our circumstances –
the unemployment, the packing and moving to another city, and so
on. And I wished you were bigger, simply so I could get some more
sleep and not be so bone-tired all the time (hah!). But even as I
wished that, I knew I’d look back and regret the loss of that
year. Right there in the midst of those dark days, I resented
losing the right to wallow in your babyhood, to have you be the
biggest and hardest part of my life instead of being shoved to the
back and asked to take as little effort as possible.

This sounds horrible, and I wish I could describe it better, but I
want you to know that while I didn’t love that dark first
year, it was in no way your fault. You were a pretty great baby,
and I fantasized about being able to freeze time and spend your
first year just the two of us, all the other worries and demands on
my time simply frozen out. I wish that time had been different, but
I sure am looking forward to the fall, when you and I get some
quality Mommy-n-Cora time while big sister’s in school. The
past year I’ve watched you slowly and steadily become, well,
more YOU. I can’t say you’ve blossomed or surprised me
overnight, because your specialness and unique spark have always
been there – they’ve simply intensified over the year.
You wouldn’t believe the number of strangers who stop me and
tell me what an adorable girl you are – not after simply
glimpsing your face, but after watching you in a store or
restaurant or ballet studio for a while, falling under your spell
just as I have.

Li’l Bit, I love you much, my love.


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