Firefly--my little doodlebug, my baby girl--turned fifteen months old on Friday. Fifteen months. It's the age Puppy was when we moved into this house, all baby pudge and careening, flat-footed steps. Now he is a lean little boy who builds elaborate block structures and runs for what seems like hours.
I forget Firefly is fifteen months old sometimes. She is smaller than Puppy was at this age, and moves, eats and plays more like Puppy did when he was about ten months old. So I see her crawling around and think of her as younger than she really is. When I stop to think about it, I realize that of course she is older. You can see it in the way she interacts with us and with her surroundings, in the ways she communicates. But I have to pause and think.
Firefly opted to postpone crawling a bit, and while she waited she perfected sitting to an art form. Growing up we had one of those inflatable punching bags weighted with sand at the bottom, the kind you could punch down and watch pop back up (ours was Darth Vader, so very late '70s). Firefly was like that at the peak of her sitting phase. No matter how far off balance she went, how close to the verge of toppling over, she always seemed to roll right back upright again. Now she is perfecting her standing technique, seemingly in no hurry to take the next step (heh) into walking. She can stand herself up from the floor unassisted, clap, dance, hold heavy objects, twist to and fro, and do an impressive series of squats, balancing all the while. But she has absolutely no interest in lifting a foot and going forward. I watch her repeat this process of unhurriedly reaching perfection at one stage before moving on to the next and think to myself, "My word, this child is going to take nine years to finish college."
Her smile starts at the top of her face, with a scrunched up nose and crinkled eyes. I can't help but smile in return. She is very reserved around the general public, and is so stingy in smiling at them that our friends treat it like some sort of miraculous event when she does finally crack a grin. I feel as if there is a secret Firefly--a loud, chatty, often-smiling Firefly--that only a tiny band of us are lucky enough to see. Everyone else she regards with wary suspicion.
She is terribly proud of the words she can sign. Proud and sloppy. Much like when a child first starts talking, her family members are probably the only ones who can understand what she's saying without hints. (Puppy has become her interpreter when they're with the babysitter or my parents.) She makes sure anyone taking care of her knows her sign for "cracker," because she considers crackers and milk the most important--nay, the only worthwhile--foods in the world. She loves crackers beyond any sort of logical reason, the way some adults adore chocolate or wine or narcotics. She asks for crackers when you lift her from her crib, when you change her diaper, when you look at her from across the room. Despite hardly ever getting her wish, every ten minutes she's politely inquiring about a cracker. Whenever we drive in the car, Puppy's voice is bound to pop up from the backseat at some point: "Firefly's asking for a cracker. Again."
Her eyes shine like pools of sunlight.
The anniversary of her adoption finalization comes up next month. It feels like the last of the one year milestones. For the past several months they have swept past, one after another: it's been one year since we learned she would be a girl, one year since we first held her, one year since she came home. It's when I remember that day in the court room, Firefly still small enough to tuck into the crook of my arm, that I realize just how much time has truly passed and how much she has reshaped our family. Thinking back to those years as family of three, it is as if we were always waiting for her to arrive.