you turned four over two weeks ago. since then (and before, actually), i’ve been attempting to compose a letter to you in my head, and while there are plenty of busy reasons to explain the lack of letter till now, the biggest, truest reason is this: the longer you are on the planet, the less i am able to use my little bucket of words to describe you. your soul is bigger and purer than your dear old mom could plunk out in letter form. it is a daunting task to try.
i will try to capture a snapshot of you, with that disclaimer out of the way, because you are so very much yourself at four, and i want you to always know the you you’re becoming: you’ve wholly shed your baby skin now, and have emerged a lithe, leggy girl–taller than all the other girls–with immense self-love, and nothing but delight at the world around you. you see the world through the hazy golden glow of a girl born in june, and spend your days exploring it. from your seat in the back of the van, you call out with a squeal the things that bring you joy: a bike attached to a car! bales and bales and bales of hay! (mama and i point and yell, “hay! jude!” and you laugh at the wordplay.) goats! a flyover! a cloud that looks like a rabbit! do you see it do you see it?
and then, the hallmark four-ness kicks in: did you see it, mommy? well, i saw it first.
you are, officially, in competition with everyone, to be first and/or best. and when you are clearly not the winner/best, you tell the rest of us, “remember, it’s not a competition”. or, if you’re tired, you weep in frustration, because it’s absurd to you that you could be anything but the winner of your world. i expect that as you get older, this tendency will grow into perfectionism, and girl, you and i will surely spend a lot of time talking about how to temper it. [because i am the BEST at tempering perfectionism. no one is better than me.] despite your fierce competitiveness, diplomacy often wins the day, as you are sometimes gracious enough to call a tie, especially when it comes to running races with your diaper-disadvantaged brother.
you continue to be obsessed with death, and your grasp of what death is both deepens and broadens every day. you now have a cursory understanding of the fact that you eat meat, which used to be a living animal, but you still wonder whether your goldfish crackers or clem’s dog bones used to be alive. you know that mama does not eat meat and that mommy does. you are, thus far, unfazed by the idea of eating a former chicken or turkey or cow.
most of your death obsession is focused on the death of your family. this focus is more acute because there has been actual death in the family recently. you do not know exactly what is going on, and you were not especially close to the people who died, but you are close to those who are in deepest mourning, and i know you are absorbing the grief. it manifests in the need for extra cuddles, and with a slew of questions about death. at bedtime recently, you smoothed my hair, and said, “mommy, i will love you forever, even after you are dead. i will love you even then. when you die, mommy, will you get a new body and come back to me? will you, mommy? will you? will you?” i hope so, i said, but i don’t know. “well, i think you will,” you replied, and the matter was temporarily settled for you.
i think that you will remember your 4th birthday. it was a halcyon day. you and me and mama and ziggy picnicked at the beach–mudd cove at pace bend park to be exact. you shed much of your water-shyness that day, and walked hand in hand with me into the tiny waves made by jet ski wakes, until you were waist deep, then chest deep. you didn’t cry when you slipped and found your whole self under water for a brief second. instead, you declared that you’d held your breath and you’d gone underwater on purpose! you squinted up at me and giggled as minnows nibbled your knees. as a family, we four stood stood stock still in the lake for awhile, holding goldfish crackers in our fingers as bait at the water’s surface, and watched as the minnows enjoyed a faux-cannibalistic lunch. we called “all done” when ziggy began eating the bloated, wet cracker remnants. later that night, uncle g, gabby and pop pop all descended upon our home with presents and laughter, and you helped mama make birthday cupcakes, of which you ate three.
at one point that day, you asked me, “why are there no kids coming over to celebrate my birthday?”
[ahem: let it be known for posterity’s sake that you did have a kid-full party the following weekend at your favorite splash pad, and you were very much celebrated.]
…that question really sums up who you are, socially. you have a tight little circle of friends, and you are in love with them all. you assimilate their mannerisms until they become a genuine part of who you are, and you pine for them when you are separated. just the other day, i heard you mutter to yourself, after something or other amused you, “i can’t wait to tell poppy about this”. and i’m sure that, when you saw her this morning, you remembered to tell her the story.
this letter is fast becoming a tome, and i kind of don’t want to stop. for there is so much to you, my jude, and i’m merely closing my eyes and pointing at moments. i could tell stories about your love of bugs, of books, of my little ponies; your fascination with rhyme; your inability to keep from sashaying your hips when you hear a good song; your immensely popular quotes of the day. yeah, let’s do that. here you are, in your own superbly quotable words:
you: what’s that guy’s name?
you: Oh, I thought that was his middle name.
[exasperated] “Elmo’s World” is ALWAYS stuck in my head.
me: Jude, I didn’t realize you were such a great painter!
you: Why? Did you thought I was not?
Cinderella dressed in yella made a mistake and kissed a fella.
I can do so many tricks when i am four years old.
yes, yes you can, my love. i can’t wait to see them all.
i love you.
pee ess: my, how you’ve grown.