Dear Mira,

Your story begins at Christmas, 2010, in an ice skating rink outside of Charlotte, NC. That’s where your grandma Noni asked me when we were planning on starting a family. I inwardly (and probably outwardly) rolled my eyes and told her that we were thinking four or five years. To be funny, Noni gave your mom and I a bunch of baby clothes for Christmas. We laughed, returned them for merchandise credit, and I took it all as a sign of my mother’s baby-crazed empty nest syndrome. In retrospect, call it intuition.

A couple weeks later, your mom and I were walking through the self-checkout line at Stop & Shop with a box of pregnancy tests. Two plus signs told us you were on your way.

We painted the walls in our little condo. We bought new furniture. I took down the posters from the extra room that had been our study, and Grandpa helped us install a big paper light fixture from IKEA. It cast fun shadows on the wall above your crib. Your mom made a chain of black and white paper flowers to hang over your dresser. Our friends and family showered us with more tiny clothes than you could ever possibly wear. We worried. We waited.

You already know that your mom is beautiful, but while you were gestating in her belly, she was extra beautiful. When she was really, really pregnant, we took a trip to Amelia Island, FL, and she wore a bikini. People on the beach came over to tell her she was beautiful. People in the restaurants came over to tell her she was glowing. We sat on the bed of our hotel, eating ice cream and wondering about you.

A week before you were born, a hurricane passed through New England. I was worried the change in air pressure might prompt you to come into the world. Worried because I wasn’t ready. I was working late into the night, I had so many loose ends at my job I needed to tie up before you came. As if by checking every item off my life’s to do list I would be ready to be your dad. I didn’t know yet that the perfection is in the messiness. I was still trying to arrange my days.

The night before you were born, we went to a movie. We saw The Debt, starring Helen Mirren. As we left the theater, your mom told me she was having contractions during the movie. An electric jolt passed through my body. Your mom smiled and the current ran between us as we held hands, walking home across the lawn of the Salem Armory in the cool night air. There was a sublime sparkling reflection off the storefront windows.

Around 5 the next morning, your mom got up. We had gone to a class that told us about the false starts that many pregnancies experience before going into actual labor. I rolled over and tried to drift back to sleep. Soon after, though, I woke to your mom softly saying, I think my water broke.

At 2:41 that day, you were here. When the nurse placed you on your mother’s chest and I saw your little body for the first time, I let out a yelp like a wounded animal. I was crying. You were crying. Your mom was staring at you in quiet amazement. Your pruny hands were flailing around into that new vastness of physical space. I cut the cord that had nourished you from a blueberry-sized, alien-looking mass of tissue to the perfect form of fingers and toes and eyelashes that came into the world. You were, all of a sudden, your own person.

You joined our family on your due date. What a punctual and considerate little girl, I thought. I held you carefully through the joyful procession of visitors in what seemed like a supernaturally long 48 hours. We squeezed together on the hospital bed, a new family, listening to an album by Broken Social Scene called “Feel Good Lost.” That detail seems important to me for some reason. While I conked out on the pull-out chair next to her hospital bed, your mom didn’t sleep at all, holding you through the night. The world had changed. And when we took you home, our concept of home changed, too.

When you’d wake up at 4 in the morning, we would bounce together on a yoga ball, watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. We figured things out together as we went. The days were long—very long—and the months flew by.

You grew a little belly. You learned to sit up. You learned to crawl. We sat on the floor and played with toys. Putting things in and out of boxes, pushing buttons, shaking shaky things, finding leftover Cheerios on the floor.

I’d say, Mira, this is fun. I love hanging out with you. Do you want to walk to the park later?

And you’d say Da da da da da da da da.

And I’d say, Mira, I feel kind of crazy, like the thrilling lightness of your unbridled joy and innocence is always contrasting this weight of love and responsibility.

And you’d look up at me for a second and then back to the smiley face ball in your hand, which you dropped into a plastic cup with a calculated jerk of your arm. Da! Satisfaction on your face when it plunks in successfully.

Great job! I mean it.

Considering you couldn’t talk, I got to know you really well in your first year. For instance, I knew that you LIKED RAISINS A LOT and that you make a tiny noise right before you fall asleep. You and I kind of had a thing, where your face turned into a huge smile when you saw me, and I’d spend all day doing silly things with you because I didn’t want you to stop smiling.

And some days you’d have a complete and utter meltdown, and your mother would say it was because you napped too much. It happens.

You only know the present moment. When you’re teething, it HURTS. And when I think of life from that perspective, even through the frustration and boredom, there’s your smile and a crazy giggle when we play peek-a-boo. I want so badly to learn these things from you.

I am learning that part of parenting is exploring the relationship between love and possession. You are my responsibility but you are not mine. Even now, at 16 months, you’re marching around the house like you own the world, shouting commands at me and all our household objects. Who am I to tell you that you’re wrong? As far as I can tell, you’re not.

Hello, open doors!

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  • PG × 01.25.13


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