Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Inexorable Passage of Time

My baby girl turned 5 yesterday. She's been obsessed with being a princess of late, which in her mind means wearing dresses with tights every single day. So, yesterday we let her pick out and wear her new size 5 dress that her "Granny G" recently got for her. It's a good Christmas dress: A velvety green with a red belt/bow thingy and hefty enough for cold weather. After I helped her get dressed (not that she needs much in the way of help with that anymore), I looked her over and realized, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, my baby is gone and in her place is this young girl.

It's hard to describe the mix of emotions wrapped up in that. It's not just the change in age. It's the changes I see in her. Six months ago she could still wear size three clothes. Now her size four clothes are getting tight and this new size five dress fits her perfectly. Six months ago she could sing the alphabet song, but could only recognize and identify a handful of letters. Now she knows them all. She can spell her full name (Anastasia Brakke), the word stop (as in the sign), and her brother's name (Kyle). Her ability to reason and our ability to reason with her has taken boundless leaps. (And her brother, despite being 16 months behind her is doing everything in his power to keep up. It's hard to explain, but I see in him unlimited potential.)

I see all these changes, this speedy evolution, and I look at both her and Kyle with a sense of pride I've never known. I know that ultimately there is nothing extraordinary in all of this. Every kid makes these leaps. Ana's not obviously gifted in any exceptional way, except perhaps the capacity of her heart, which is boundless in ways I could never have imagined. And yet it doesn't make this "standard routine" of watching her grow up any less remarkable to me.

I look at her and think that even though my baby is long gone, I couldn't be happier about the young girl she's become. I look at her and try to imagine what she'll be like in another five years. In another twenty. I can't really conceive of it. All I know is that it would be just fine with me if time could just slow down for a little while so that I could enjoy the now just a little bit longer, mostly because I simply can't conceive of her being more perfect than she is at this moment.

Happy Birthday, Ana. Your mom and dad love you very much.