The day passed as quickly as the six years we celebrated. I'm left here tonight; wondering where the time went--yes, still I wonder--even after all of this time that has passed within just a moment.
Six was hard, knowing that it was the end of Five. It hit me like the moment that I gave back the bassinet that I had slept in as a child; knowing that there would be no more of my children sleeping in it. I always said the years between three and five were my favorite; those years are gone now.
Already just in this year between birthday cakes she has lost nearly all of her words that were said incorrectly; the "w's" are rarely placed where the "l's" belong anymore. I remember the look on a friends face when I corrected her as she corrected Little A for saying "wike" instead of "like".
"No; it's OK--I hardly have any of that left," I'd said. In my mind there was a memory of that old wooden bassinet; my sobs as I hauled it down the stairs; there was a memory of how tiny she once was; how truly small her hands were when I held them in mine. Her sweet mispronounced words were the parts of that woven wooden baby bed that had remained.
She awoke today with a sense of age, "It is very different than five," she explained.
"Mom, it's seriously so much older than five. How can you be an adult an' not know that?"
"Mumma knows that, silly." And her braid became tighter in my hands as all of her blond hair fell together into just a motion, a memory, a prayer. "Turn your head this way, baby." We turned away from the mirror before us, time and tears woven into a plait of hope and sunshine.
If I were to tell the absolute truth of Six, the first word would be this image:
It's one thing to write of her story here; it is another to open my hands and show you what I hold within them. For her end of the year project in kindergarten, they had to create a timeline and she needed a photo of when she was born.
"Is that me?" She had asked, her eyes focused upon the picture, confusion clouding the blue of her stare. "It is, buddy." "What was wrong with me?" "Nothing," I'd said. "You were just very, very tiny and had a lot of things that doctors had to work on for a long time." I explained that her body needed time to catch up to her soul. She smiled when I said that. "Well, I'm super fast so can you even believe how much I caught up to it? Isn't that funny, Ma? Isn't that crazy? How did I even do that so fast?"
The truth of Six is that I once thought Six would never come, just as I thought One would never come; just as I worried that one week, then two weeks, then a month would never come. The truth of Six is that despite the force that she is, she is also still that tiny prayer inside of a NICU to me. I held her in one hand and now I'm releasing her to the world with both. It's hard for me and I wish it weren't, but damn if Six doesn't make it so much harder than Five.
We were talking about her birthday a few days ago, when I joked with her (as I always do) that if she would just quit growing I'd feel so much better. "Ma, I'm gonna grow, OK. I have to. I need to drive a car and get groceries. But I'm gonna stick around, OK? You're gonna see me, OK? But I'm gonna grow, OK? Seriously, I have to."
Of course she has to grow. Of course I am blessed each day that she does. Of course I should have let go of Five with more dignity than I did and I should have greeted Six with a smile and an open door rather than sobbing on the phone with my sister hiding behind the door of my bathroom.
Six was the best birthday ever, according to her. It arrived as friends were pulling out of our driveway at midnight after a night of catching fireflies and making s'mores. We spent most of Six in the sun at the beach. I've been awake for most of Six, but I feel like only a minute has passed.
I asked her what her favorite part of the day was as I was hugging her goodnight. "Remember today when I was really afraid ta go in the lake and ya kept sayin' 'it's OK, Momma is here' and then you kept letting me ride on your back and taking little steps with me and then finally I was like, 'OK, people, I'm swimmin' and I started swimming? Do you remember that?"
"Of course I do, silly, it just happened today."
"Well that was my favorite part, when I was huggin' ya like really tight and ya kept sayin' 'you can do it' and then I did. When I did it, that was my favorite part. And now I'm a lake swimmer, of course."
"What was your favorite part?" she whispered. "When I watched you swimming away like such a big girl," I whispered back.
"Did I look like a really big girl when I did that?" "Like the biggest six year old ever," I said. "I'm really tired, Momma. I have ta go to bed now so I can swim tomorrow."
I hugged her as tight as I could and tucked her in between her two best friends. I smiled sincerely, with all of my soul, at them as I pulled the door shut. I rested my head up against it for a minute and stood there, softly closing a different door in my mind where a tiny baby that fit within the palm of my hand laid within a different bed, machines whirring and humming around her. It probably won't be the last time that I close that door, but I'm determined to try to open it less.
I can't keep worrying about what was and I don't have time to worry about what will be; I have a six year old to take care of now, ya' know?
The End A.A. Milne
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.