Stella turned one on Monday. I should probably say something really profound and eloquent and heartfelt but all I keep thinking to myself is “HOLY SHITBALLS!” Over and over and over.
Okay, I’ll say that after 12 mind-blowing months, it feels like heaven to see her thriving, running, throwing, walking, laughing, smiling, waving, chowing, bye-bye-ing and doing everything she is “supposed to” and more, especially after all we went through with her feeding issues and the entity referred to as The Tube. Perhaps I appreciate this milestone more–who knows, maybe a lot more–than I otherwise would have. There were days when I didn’t know if she’d grow again. I couldn’t see a way out for us–no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it wasn’t a tunnel. It was a deep hole and we were stuck in what seemed like mud but it was too dark to really know. There were nights when terror had me by the throat and I literally had trouble breathing because I loved her so much and that feeding tube was hell and totally unacceptable and the tyrannical, suffocating thought, “WHY WON’T SHE JUST EAT?” robbed me of my own appetite and mental stability (what little I had to begin with). The really sad part, I suppose, is that I know there were stretches of time during which worry over her unwillingness to eat, and knowledge of the pain she was in initially, and the resulting lack of weight gain robbed me of much of the enjoyment of some her early little triumphs–the ones that are actually incredibly huge–and anxiety sometimes prevented me from savoring that fleeting, precious time in her life. That’s what gets to me as I look back.
But now, here we are at one year old. We made it! We kicked some ass. Holy crap. We moved MOUNTAINS, we hit the three-pointer at the buzzer, we saved the world! (Our little corner of it, anyway.) I could not be more proud of her. And you know what? I’m proud of me too. I love where we are now. She is such a happy and active child and so strong and vibrant and resilient. She glows! Everyone sees it. I am tempted to quote Jack Nicholsen here, which seems inappropriate and perfect: “You make me want to be a better man.” Because she has inspired me to let go of what doesn’t matter and to cherish what does. Heck, if she is this awesome (and she really, really is–like when she spots her Cookie Monster doll across the room and lowers her voice several octaves and talks in scruffy baby talk all the way over to him), I must be pretty great. So, to be better, I don’t really have to do much at all, except be kinder and gentler toward myself. That’s the example I want to set for Stella.
We threw a very small, delightful and heartfelt party on Sunday (yes, it’s true, a party can be heartfelt). My parents were visiting from Boston, which made it all the more fun. I think we were all shocked when Stella refused to eat her cupcake. Wouldn’t even touch it. We got her to lick the candle, an attempt to help her enjoy some of the Trophy Cupcake frosting magic, but it must’ve been too sweet for her, because she reacted as if she’d been force-fed a heaping dollop of Vegemite. (I reacted the same way, when, during a soiree I attended amid my study abroad experience in Melbourne, I loaded up a cracker with what I thought was Nutella. Let’s just say that I’ve never been more wrong about anything in my life.) Total disgust. However, she eagerly ate my mom’s super fantastic guacamole, and had some flaky crust from one of the three types of quiche (crab, broccoli, and bacon-loaded Lorraine–all were superb).
She looked as adorable as ever, but, not at all used to wearing a floofy dress, she tried to undress herself constantly. Also not accustomed to so many people (and all were adults save for one toddler) crammed into our small abode, she got a bit clingy. I have to say I enjoyed that, because she’s usually far too busy sprinting around or doing headstands on the coffee table (trying to, anyway) to be held. Oh my, she WAILED when we sang “Happy Birthday.” It was funny, and got a big laugh (which probably didn’t help matters!) but I really felt for her. Actually, I set her up. I know full well that when you sing to her on your own, she’ll not only be mesmerized, but she’ll often sing along, or more likely try to one up you with her angelic singing voice when you’re done. But don’t you DARE sing with anyone else! Not even one other person! It is absolutely *terrifying* to this otherwise fearless girl. Cody and I learned this a few months ago. I was singing some old Cookie Monster song (that Cody taught me) while feeding Stella, when Cody chimed in. She looked at me with an expression of total horror, then looked at Cody, and back at me. And then, the tears and hysterics began. Sometimes we forget about this and absentmindedly join in if the other is singing and holy cow does our self esteem take a hit when she gives us the biggest and most terrified thumbs down you can imagine.
Cody made a bound hardcover photo album recapping Stella’s first year of life, as a surprise for me. It arrived yesterday, and it’s fabulous. I just love it. (Thank you very much, Cody!) Somewhere toward the middle, there’s a photograph from Christmas day. She’s on her tummy, wearing her green candy cane (striped) PJ’s, with her fists restly cutely under her chin. Her expression is priceless. She is clearly thrilled and her grin could not be any wider, but there is an undeniably devilish glint to her smile. She’s up to something. The tube is there with its horrible, all-too-temporary tape job, but at first, I didn’t even see it. All I saw was her beautiful face. And as I realized this, I was struck with how far we’ve come.
Stella, happy, happy birthday! You are a wonder to behold. We feel so lucky, so incredibly thankful to have you in our lives. I love you so much I would stand on my head all day long just to prove it to you, or even eat a whole tub of Vegemite. May your second year be as triumphant as your first, and even more joyful! We can’t wait to see what you do next.