See? That’s why not writing on the weekends in dangerous. I totally forgot until now, 9:30 pm, that I have to write something in here today. Instead I’m watching Australian Open and scratching my head and eating ice cream with chocolate sauce.
This weekend was Ayla’s second birthday party. It was, in all respects, awesome. She knew exactly what was up, and could give you all the right answers to questions you might pose. “What’s today?” “My birt-dayaayyy!” “How old are you today?” “Chooo!”
Lately I’ve been asking Ayla questions about her early life, working under the theory that she’s old enough to understand what I’m asking, and still baby enough to (maybe) remember things from before she could speak. So I say “Ayla, remember when you didn’t know how to walk? Remember when you were inside mommy’s belly?” For these questions she has no answer, except to say “Yah” where “Yah” means, yes, I understand that you are asking something.
It’s sad for me that she’ll forget even these sorts of things (her second birthday, everything that’s happening right now). When I think about my second birthday I can’t think of anything; I consider that I was still a baby then. But the truth is a two-year old is quite a little person, with a sense of humor and stubbornness and big complicated memories. Ayla, for example, knows that after her birthday we’re going to Mexico (true; in March), and after that is Hanukkah (true, also, technically, but many months later). She remembers things from three, four, and five months ago. She can sort markers into piles (washable, permanent) based on their coloring.
So forgetting your early childhood is a weird form of amnesia that we don’t really talk about much. You were a real person then. You thought things, wanted things, remembered things, had conversations. And yet it all disappears as our frontal lobes expand drastically throughout childhood. Imagine if you just happened to not be able to remember, say, years 14-16. That would be unusual. People would suggest you visit a doctor. But having no memory of all the things that happened in the very first (and, arguably, most important) years of your life is just unremarkable. Strange.
Ayla’s birthday party began with an amazing 2-year wrap-up video that Alicia put together. Ayla spent the whole time making little comments, and generally cracking herself up. After that she (obligingly) devoured a slice of moon-themed cake that I made for her. It was, in no uncertain terms, not very good. The afternoon ended with presents. A chaotic, unstructured, prolonged orgy of presents. Ayla truly didn’t know what to do with herself, shifting back and forth from opening new presents to playing with recently opened ones to just walking out of the room to do something else. I found the whole thing traumatic, and made Alicia promise that next year we’d do a books-only birthday. Sucks for Ayla, I know, but I can’t take the excess.
Anyway, the moral of the birthday story is that year two was about ten times better than year one for our family (I can say that with certainty for me and Alicia, and pretty confidently for Ayla). She’s the nicest, funniest, prettiest, smartest, and coolest person I have ever known. It’s trite, and she’ll never believe me, and she’ll just shrug it off when I tell her this when she’s thirteen, but I really am so grateful for every hour I get to spend with her. It’s like if I were really into basketball and every day I got to spend a few hours with Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan liked me, and sometimes gave me hugs, unprompted, and thought I had a great jump shot.
She is that cool. And I am that lucky.