(Reminiscing: Oliver’s birth story and his first birthday letter. Our song, “The One Who Knows” by Dar Williams, can be played here.)
My beloved Oliver London,
Happy second birthday, sweetheart!
Wow, and I thought the FIRST year of your life flew by? Your second year began with learning how to walk, and both you and Time have picked up speed since then! Apu and I cheered you on from those first wobbly steps in the house to running and kicking a soccer ball outside like a pro. We are very proud of your growing independence, but what we secretly love best is when you hold our hands. Don’t fly off too fast, little owl.
It’s hard to believe that the baby I first held just two years ago is already a little boy. You are tall and strong and more energetic than ever. Aside from your very first cold at 20 months, which amounted to nothing more than a mild stuffy nose, your health is still perfect. And since your first birthday, your hair has become curlier and CURLIER. I will admit, this is something I used to hope I would not pass on to my children, but oh, how I love your curls—they suit you so perfectly. What you are best known for, though, is your brilliant smile. It’s a reflection of all your life so far; it’s who you are. And you are ever more beautiful, inside and out.
Your personality is still the same as it was in your baby days: you study everything and everyone, you like things in their rightful places, you are very much a morning person, you have a great sense of humor, you hate socks, you love being outside, and (to my delight) your favorite activity is reading. I can’t even finish the last page of a book before you start begging, “Read pweez! Juss one moe! PWEEEEZ!” Your speaking vocabulary is now over 350 words, and you pick up new words—in both English and Hungarian—every day. I never imagined how much fun it would be, not just talking to you but with you. Your world is defined in colors (of which your favorite is, of course, BLUE) and you fill our lives with your vibrancy. You are more extraordinary every day.
This second year had its challenges, too, the main one being your VERY strong will: I’m not sure which one of us says “No!” more often these days. But your temper tantrums are brief because you can’t hold out too long before finding something funny in the situation. This is actually a very useful life skill, as you will someday find out. Apu and I are also trying to expose you to new places and new people more often, which has greatly helped with your shyness. Just this week, during a walk, you noticed a man riding a bike. “Bike,” you whispered to yourself, “hiii?” And then as he passed us you shouted excitedly to him, “HIII!” Apu and I laughed in surprise. “Oh, Odder!” you laughed back, taking the words right out of our mouths. Even though you’re hard to handle sometimes, you more than make up for it with your endearing efforts. No one understands your strong will and your shyness better than the person you get them from—me—and I’m very proud of how hard you try to overcome them. The mischievousness, I’m afraid, is on both sides. Your father and I don’t stand a chance.
A few weeks after your first birthday last summer, I went back to work part time to help our family finances. It was hard for me to leave you at first, but in the end, it turned out to be a great situation for all of us. Your Grandma watches you at her house two days a week, driving halfway to meet Apu in the morning and me in the afternoon. She is the entire reason I can do this—financially AND emotionally. It is comforting to know that the gentle hands which held mine as a child now hold yours, to know that you are spending those days in the same house and yard and neighborhood in which I grew up. It feels like part of me is there with you. So although I miss you while we’re apart, I know that you are safe and loved, and I am grateful that you get to have a little piece of my childhood as part of your own.
The biggest events of the past year were probably your Apu’s graduation from law school and our two-day trip without you afterwards. That week was a turning point for all of us. I want you to know that Apu and I did NOT need a break from YOU—we just missed each other terribly after four long years of law school. We also believe that a good marriage will, in turn, help us to be good parents. You had a lot of fun staying with Grandma and Grandpa, but after two days we couldn’t wait to come home to you. Since then, Apu has been home with us every night, and I’m not sure which one of you enjoys it more. When he comes through the door, you fly to him shouting “APUUUU!” and you won’t let him set his bag down before you take his hand and lead him off to play. He calls it his “hero’s welcome” and it’s the best part of his day. It was challenging to have you while he was still in school, but it was all worth it now, because this is what we’ve all waited for.
Almost every day you and I walk a certain route in our neighborhood to look for your favorite car, a turquoise blue Ford Mustang. You excitedly wonder over and over, “Boo car? Dere?” The Mustang is parked on a driveway hidden from our oncoming view by trees and bushes, and the mystery of whether or not the Blue Car will be There never ceases to thrill you. When it’s not there, you sigh with disappointment, “No,” and then hopefully, “Maybee lay-deh!” (maybe later – ever the optimist, just like your father). But when you DO see the Blue Car, you hop and giggle and tell me you’re “HAPPEE!” And there is nothing like your happiness, Oliver. Your happiness is like the kind of summer day you were born on two years ago: intensely bright and warm, with the bluest-blue sky.
It’s been an adventure and a blessing, watching you grow and getting to know you. I think you are the most amazing soul. While we were playing outside this morning, I said, “Happy birthday!” and kissed you on top of your head. You lifted your face to kiss me back and then, studying my face, observed, “Mama HAPPEE.” I burst into tears, barely able to lift the corners of my mouth into a smile as I choked out, “Yes, honey, Mama is VERY happy.” “Ann Apu happee TOO,” you grinned, “ann Odder happee TOO!”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Happy second birthday to my sweet happy boy. I love you more than anything.