On the day before her third birthday, Grandpa said to Olivia, “Tomorrow is your birthday. You’re going to be such a big girl.” And she replied, “But I am always going to be my mama’s baby.”
Oh yes, baby girl, you always will. Even when you are big enough to have your own baby, you’ll be my baby. That day will seem very weird because you will be all grown up. And even now three seems too big. I wish I could hold on to you in this stage for just a little longer. But I can’t. So, instead, I’ll try to remember everything about you that I love so much.
This past year with Olivia has been truly wonderful. There are so many things to love about her. These are just a few of them:
1. The way her eyes squint until they’re almost closed when she is really, truly smiling.
2. She loves dresses so much that she has to wear multiple dresses at a time. One is never enough.
3. She is always singing. Always. And the lyrics are hilarious. Sometimes she actually knows all the words to a song surprisingly well. But then she’ll start singing “For the first time in forever” (from Frozen) and instead of singing “For the first time in forever there’s nothing in my way,” she sings “there’s noooottthhiiinnnngggg in my hhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrttttttttttttttttttt!” And today she was singing a song about Lightning McQueen getting his wheels checked. I asked her what her song was about and she said, “It’s called, ‘The Pit.'”
4. She loves Lightning McQueen more than anyone has ever loved anything. Okay, probably not really. But she does love him. She has to carry a little Lightning McQueen wherever she goes. And her Auntie Mal even made her a Lightning McQueen princess dress for her birthday – so she can combine her two favorites: princesses and cars. Not many little girls are so lucky!
5. She loves her sister. Their conversations and the way they play together brings me endless joy. They so often play so nicely together. They make believe all the live-long day. They sing songs together. They dance together. They read books together. They play dolls together. They run around in circles and drive me crazy together. When I set their plates on the table they switch them so each can have their preferred color. They bring each other blankets. They always refer to each other as “sweetie.”
6. She refers to everyone and everything she loves as “my ______”. “My Henry is hungry. Can you get him a snack?” // “Am I going to the beach with my Papa?” // “When is my Mal coming home?”
7. “Glumps.” Ever since watching Frozen, Liv has had an affinity for gloves. Or mittens, since they don’t really make gloves in her size. She’ll wear them anywhere. And even if she only has one, she is happy. And she always calls them “glumps.” Which is way too hilarious to correct. Although one day she was having a meltdown because she couldn’t find her glumps. Every time she asked me if she could have them I would giggle at her calling them “glumps.” And that just made the meltdown that much worse.
8. She is a whirlwind. She is always dancing and spinning and twirling. I think I’ll look back on this time and remember her as a blur. A blur of light and laughter and delight so pure and untainted that it glows with possibility. I can tend to get weighed down by existential angst. There are so many terrible things in this world. So many worries I have to deal with as a mother, as an adult, as a conscientious human being. The weight of it can threaten to strangle me. And then she rushes by. A stream of glowing, glittering purple dresses and crazy hair. Grey-green eyes that are always filled with delight. Lips that are always smiling, a belly that is always laughing. Hands that are always loving. If everyone could be like her, this world would be a much better place. She makes me want to be better. To love more and care less about things that don’t matter.
9. She loves her daddy. They’ve always had a special bond. Steve has been traveling a lot for work lately. After a few days of him being out of town I’ll here her sigh and say, “I miss my daddy.” It breaks my heart and makes me smile at the same time. I’m glad she loves him so much. And when he finally comes home, she curls up in his lap and doesn’t get down for anything for a very long time. Ellie and Henry get distracted long before she does.
10. She is always pretending. Many of our conversations go something like this: “Olivia, sit at the table to eat lunch.” / “I’m Merida ack-shlee (actually).” / “Okay. Merida, sit at the table.” // Olivia: “Okay.” // or “Good morning, kiddo.” / “Can you call me ‘sweetie?'” / “Good morning, sweetie.” / “Good morning, mama. I love you.” // “Hey mama! I’m Elsa. Can you be my fairy godmother? Can you make me a sparkling dress?”
11. She has a quiet confidence about her. She is not loud, but she is strong. She is smart. She is not afraid. She is comfortable with who and where she is, almost all of the time.
12. She is content. When her great-grandma asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “Nothing.” Later she said she wanted some dresses. Because she loves dresses. Of course, when the presents did come she loved them, too. And carries as many as possible with her wherever she goes. But she didn’t demand them. She doesn’t need them to be happy. We did something right with that kid. (Or maybe we had nothing to do with it. I don’t really know how these things work.)
13. She loves cake. Her main concern regarding her birthday was when she was going to get her cake. I made it extra special by making her cake Cars themed. I stayed up late Saturday night to make it for her party. It reminded me of three years ago when I stayed up half the night giving birth to her. (She was born just before 2 am on March 1st.) This end result wasn’t nearly as cute, of course, but she loved her cake so very much. I would stay up a lot of nights to making something that made her light up like she did to see her Lightning McQueen cake. (Plus, I like making cakes anyway, so it’s a win-win for everyone.)
14. She is thankful. She thanks me for every single thing I ever bring her. Like lunch. Or a blanket. Or if I find a misplaced toy. And when we had a special pizza and movie night for her birthday (Cars 2, of course), she said “Thank you, daddy, for my special movie night,” over and over again.
15. She is very helpful when it comes to choosing the correct words for things: “Look, dad, these are my princess dresses.” / (Dad:) “Oh, that’s cute.” / “No, it’s not cute. It’s beautiful.” // or, last week at the beach: “Look, mama, a duck!” / (Mom:) “That’s actually a seagull.” / “No, I’m right. It’s a bird.”
16. She likes to pretend to be a baby. Sometimes I find this quite aggravating, because her baby voice is hard to understand. But it always reminds me how quickly this time is passing. How soon she won’t ever talk in a pretend baby voice and this stage will be gone, just like that. It reminds me to snuggle her while she’s still little, kiss her while she’ll still let me. If I could keep her from getting any bigger, I would. But that would mean that I would miss everything wonderful about who she is growing up to be. And I suppose I wouldn’t want that at all.
She is an exemplary human being. Steve told me a while back that he hoped to be more like her. She isn’t moved by trivial things. She is content and confident, gracious and kind. I’d like to be more like her, too.
Happy Birthday, my Livvy Bug! Let your light shine brightly. Let your feet hardly touch the ground. Wear as many dresses as possible and laugh until you can’t anymore. We love you so impossibly much and look forward to each and every day with you.