27 January 2010

Hartley: Twelve Months

Hello my little love,

Look, I’ll be honest with you – I’ve been trying to write you an adequate letter to commemorate your very first year on earth, and that is a lot of pressure to put on oneself, even semantically, I hope you’ll agree.

It’s been over two weeks since your first birthday, and I have even given up on the idea of a belated birthday apology, peppered here and there with post-12-month anecdotes to make up for lost time.

I began what I thought would be your 12 month letter last week, and opened with the story of your first birthday, but like an accordion, the story tumbled open to reveal the many pleats that had been tightly folded inside what, at first glance, appeared to be an uncomplicated tale of unity.

I’ve made mental and real notes of your accomplishments, which are accumulating at such an alarming rate that I sometimes have to open a notepad and quickly jot down “imitates blowing a kiss by gagging himself with his fingers and extracting them with a staccato MA,” before training my eyes on you again, just in case I miss something else, or you fall headfirst off the sofa, which you did once, and which scared the life out of me.

There is nothing coherent about your development either. I could write out a list as long as my arm filled with all the wonderful things you’ve done over the past few weeks (if I resorted to using that shorthand which only scientologists and courtroom secretaries have any need for) . . . and then it would be time for bed.

I could probably try to work it out in some type of free-form poem if I had a bottle of wine and an entire night (and some talent in this area) but these luxuries are not available to me for the time being.

I wish I knew where to start, Boo. A beginning would be something. Anything to fill in the vague impression of your small, serious face with its dark eyes and cherubic features; your long, lean chicken body when you’re laid out flat on the bed after your bath, frowning slightly and silently suffering our slathering of lotions and balms, our pampering and soft-bagging of you before bed.

Apart from the fact that you have a hundred new words in your vocabulary now – all of them ‘deedee!’; all of them referring to entirely different things, but not excluding your daddy – and that you can stand on your own without holding onto anything so long as you don’t realise you’ve let go, I think the biggest way you’ve changed this past month has been your sleep.

Lately you’ve been allowing us to put you in your cot at night before you’ve passed out on milk, and you are quite happy to lie there babbling quietly to yourself until you feel sleepy enough to nod off on your own without needing a single thing more from us. When we quietly tip-toe in to check on you now, we find you sleeping soundly on your back, your head nestled between the two curved arms of the breast pillow we’ve placed there to make it feel more secure (though tonight you were using the pillow as it was meant to be used for the very first time, which brought tears to the surface of my mind), your body position the perfect indication of contentment.

We went one step further last week and decided that I would sleep out on the sofa from now on. We did this for my own peace of mind, as it wasn’t terribly relaxing to know that at any moment you could let out a shrill cry (usually as I’m finally drifting off) and I would have to stand straight up and take you out of the cot to soothe you.

What we didn’t know was that you would also sleep much better without me around, and now you only wake up once in the night for a quick feed before your inner drill sergeant blows his whistle at the stroke of 5:40 a.m. and wakes us all up for good. This means that as a family, we are finally getting a solid block of five and sometimes six hours for the first time since you were born. This is a great accomplishment, my love.

There are so many things I want to tell you about this time in our lives, but I am too busy living it with you to work out how it all fits into our narrative, which we are creating even now, even as you sleep and I sit here breathing and thinking.

I promise you I will show you all the photographs, videos, notes and butchered letters one day, Hartley. You only need to see my enthusiasm as I try in my stilted way to explain to you how much we loved you, how much we still love you – now (which will be then) and then (which is now) – to know that this is true.

I love you with everything in me, and the new bits of me you’ve created by just being here.

Happy first year, tiny Boo. You’re not so tiny anymore.

04 January 2010

Frances Straker

We love you, nan. You'll be greatly missed.