We sit on the front steps in the early evening. The sun is not yet set, but the blue of the sky is weakening; the light going all golden and long.
“Ari,” I say. Our toes are in fading chalk dust. You have dandelion seeds in your hair. “Are you my baby?”
You are wearing a pair of Troll panties, and nothing else – as you usually are, when we’re at home. I’m lucky to have the underwear on you at all.
“No!” you exclaim emphatically – that grin with the gap between your two front teeth that melts everybody, “I big girl!”
It is a familiar correction, these days. You know, you understand: you’re not a baby like you once were. Maybe it hurts my heart a little, to hear that even you know you’re not a baby. Mostly it makes me smile, makes me laugh on the occasions I’m not even calling you a baby, I’m calling you baby like honey, sweetheart, angel.
Can you pick up that cup, please, baby? I’ll ask, and your return is immediate, no, I big girl!
And here on our front porch, covered with chalk outlines of your little body, blobs for your two hair buns, belly-buttons and squiggly smiled added as the only details, amid our flowers that you “help” me water – you make an allowance to your answer.
“I no big girl. I little big girl.”
That answer, I like, unreservedly. That’s exactly what you are – grown, no longer a baby. Not just talking but holding conversations, asking questions and making inferences, remembering previous answers and building on them. Not just conversing but singing, do you know the muffin man, and Old McDonald had a farm, and most touchingly, the chorus of Work Song, your favorite lullaby, when my time come around. Not just singing but reciting little rhymes, there were four in the bed and the little one said roll over, and no more monkeys jumping on the bed! Using your imagination, creating little plays for your Baby Elmo and your kitty cats and your Legos.
And yet you are little – you need help up and down steps sometimes, you need reminders to potty and we don’t always make it. You sometimes have fits just because you can’t find the words to tell us what you want fast enough, and we aren’t telepathic enough to understand you want to use two forks and one of them should be green.