It has been more than a year since I wrote one of these letters. Where do I begin? You are almost five and a half now. You are so much beauty and joy and intensity, that I can't imagine how I will contain you on this page. But I will give it a try.
Let's see, since I last wrote, quite a lot has changed. I was laid off from my full-time newspaper job and now have a part-time job with a non-profit, and I work from home. This means that we have spent a lot of time together in this past year. When I was first out of work, I took you out of daycare every afternoon and we had adventures. We explored new parks and museums, spent long hours at the library, went swimming, baked cupcakes, read books and did lots and lots of art projects. You were so into the art, and you started asking me every day what project we would be doing.
Then, this fall, you started kindergarten. You were so excited. You ran into that school holding your best friend's hand, practically bursting with joy. You have approached school the way you do everything, with willingness, enthusiasm and an open mind. You go in there with a bunch of rowdy kids, and you seem to like and get along with everyone. And amid the chaos of 24 (some of them truly ornery) kids, you are learning more than I could have imagined. In the past few months, I've watched you learn to sound out words and write sentences on your own. I can see already that you are a writer. While other kids write sentences like, "This is a fish. Fish can swim," you are attempting longer, more complex sentences like, "I like fish because they are cool and colorful." Your spelling is what we call "creative," but your ideas shine through. Your teacher sends home notes saying that you are "so excited about learning" and that you "work hard to do your best." I can't imagine anything a parent wants to hear more.
Let me think about the things you love. You love your friends. You are never happier than when you're playing with other children. And while you definitely have your best friends, you can make a new friend anywhere. You defy the only child stereotype of being a loner or awkward with other children, as I often was. You love to draw and make art. I have to admit that, at least for now, you do not seem to be among the most talented artists in your class, but your enthusiasm is undimmed. You often work yourself out of a grumpy mood by drawing, cutting up pieces of paper and making very strange-looking collages. You love to sing and listen to music. You often sing yourself to sleep. You sing while you ride your bike. You sing in the car. We gave you the music from the "Wizard of Oz" for Christmas, and your love for that CD is starting to border on obsession. I can't wait to share more musicals with you. You love to go new places. You endure even the longest car trips with virtually no complaints. You seem to enter a sort of zen state where you can sit quietly for hours. And no, we don't have a DVD player for the car. And maybe most of all, you love to pretend. At almost every playdate, you demand to be a dog while the friend acts as your owner. You are so into it that Yaya bought you a collar and leash. When you are alone, you can spend hours with a few stuffed animals and whatever other random pieces of flotsam and jetsam happen to be within reach (which are many, thanks to you), creating imaginary scenarios and dialogue all on your own.
There is too much. I could go on to infinity about the things you love. You fill our house with so much love. Christmas was just a couple weeks ago, and you were such a joy. As we decorated the tree, you told me over and over, "We're having so much fun. I love doing this." I will never forget your excitement on Christmas eve, when we put out the cookies for Santa and sprinkled the "reindeer dust" on the front yard. You were electric with anticipation and fear that you would be caught out of bed when Santa arrived. It's not yet about presents for you (you had very few requests), but about a pure belief in magic and fun.
When I think of you at 5, I think of you lying on the wood floor, in the doorway between dining room and living room, coloring or drawing or playing out an imaginary game with a handful of stuffed animals, a plastic bus and a dog leash. For some reason, you have chosen this hard expanse of floor as your spot. I cannot imagine the day when I will no longer be stepping over you there.