Last week you turned three years old. You thought your birthday happened on Sunday past, the day we celebrated with family, and we did nothing to discourage that idea. So on Tuesday, the actual day, it was just me quietly remembering that night you reluctantly came into this world.
When I asked you what sort of birthday party you'd like to have you didn't even hesitate: "An orange party." You gave no further details about your vision of orange, except to request "chocolate cake with orange frosting and sprinkles." So we filled the dining room with orange--flowers, balloons, ribbons, paper cutouts on the walls. We made your favorite meatballs and tucked orange carrots by their side, found an orange cloth to spread on the table and told our guests to dig through their closets for orange to wear. And, yes, there was a chocolate cake with orange frosting and sprinkles. You loved it all.
You exploded into toddlerhood this year. You chatter and sing at home, clamber up onto the couch to listen to books, and slowly but surely climb into your own car seat and dining chair. The first things you look for in any room are baby dolls to cuddle and other people's unattended shoes to try. Away from home you are still quiet and observant. You want us close by, your unofficial bodyguards in a world filled with children and people with whom you aren't quite yet interested in interacting.
Mari, I want to remember the way you bounce up and down like a jumping bean, singing songs you learned at toddler time. I want to remember how you lean your whole self into me when you hug and the way my arms wrap all the way around you. I want to remember your love for rice. I want to remember how you wiggle with laughter and clap your hands when I carry you to the mirror after hair time. I want to remember the way you say "pen-gu-in" with three syllables. I want to remember how wonderfully interesting you find the world, as long as we are there to hold your hand.
I know you won't remember much of these years. The specifics of your days, the routines and items that are so important to you now will fade into fuzzy, half-remembered impressions. But I hope you carry with you always the memory of how deeply you were known and loved by your family near and far, how from the moment you entered the world you were surrounded by people who became family to each other because of you, who will forever call you beloved.