I still call you “the baby,” and you’ve learned to mimic me — calling yourself ‘baby’ in photos and when you see yourself in my phone’s camera. But your face has begun to stretch into boyhood, your perfectly built little body is strong and steady. You’ve been a full-fledged toddler for months now, and you’re already giving teasing glimpses of a much older boy.
But then I see parts of the baby, too. You still need me. When you’re not feeling cheeky and mischievous, you run to me (instead of away with gales of laughter). You tell me “owie, owie!” and wait for a kiss as you kiss the air at the same time.
Or really, I should say — you’ve learned to need me.
I imagine Uganda is locked away in your memory now, her red dust that helped to form you faded, but always part of you. When you get a little bigger, we will keep telling you about her. We’ll go back, let you breathe her in again, get a new layer of dirt caked in your pores, awaken some slumbering memory buried deep. When you hear the language we took away from you at 9 months old, will you turn your head like you’re hearing a familiar song? When you hear the voice of your great auntie who helped redeem your circumstances, will you search her face, knowing those eyes from somewhere?
I always think of your first mama today, too. I think of her (your) family, mourning her, two years gone. I imagine this day of celebration for us is a day of sadness for them. And I carry a little of that, I think, for you. I wish she could see you now, I know she would be so pleased and proud. I hope she would be pleased with me, too.
It took us a little while, but you’ve learned to need me and I’ve learned to love you. And baby, it’s a love that makes me have to stop and catch my breath sometimes, so fierce and big and bright. And to think I was worried it wouldn’t come. He makes everything beautiful — even me.
I’d forgotten how hilarious a 2-year-old is, how I could fill a journal a week with all the crazy cute stuff you’re doing. You must learn five new words a day. (I especially love when you’re looking for your sister and brother: “Deedee Own? Deedee Own?”) We all love your sideways gallop-dance. Your “excited face,” where you squeeze your fists and clench your teeth until your whole body shakes? Oh my. I’ve never known a 2-year-old who loves basketball (playing it, actually working on dribbling, watching it on TV) as much as you do, my little love. You can sit so so still, for twenty minutes, thirty, just listening to music, just taking it in. I think you must be learning it, letting it imprint on your brain, saving it for later when I’m sure you’ll be a musical genius and teach us all something new.
You’re full of light and wonder and beauty and baby, you are loved. You are loved across continents, you are loved big as an ocean, you are loved more than I could even love you, by the one who formed you, the one who gave your second parents a sense that we should start NOW on the adoption process at the same time you were being formed in your first mama’s belly. He saw that we would need you. And we’re so grateful you’re here.
Happy Birthday, baby.