Ellie (like most toddlers, perhaps) is nothing if not “helpful.” She will helpfully bring you your shoes as you’re getting ready to go outside (and then another pair, and then another), shouting, “SHOES” until you put them on. She was also very helpful, when, during daycare pick-up the other day, I spilled some water out of the sippy cup I was filling for her. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been rushed by seven toddlers, arms outstretched, all, J’ACCUSE! style. Ellie very helpfully lead the mob as they shouted, “UH-OH!” You could practically see the little pitchforks in their chubby hands.
Ellie helps so much at daycare that the lead teacher in her room started calling Ellie her assistant teacher. She SCOLDS (!) the teachers if they put the wrong bib on the wrong child at lunch. Also, the other day, when a kid from the preschool came and pooped in Ellie’s classrooms’ bathroom, Ellie helpfully dropped a dime on him when the teacher was trying to figure out where that smell was coming from. She totally named names.
Ellie has a fierce sense of justice. When some cruel act is perpetrated (for example, when her mothers change her diaper) she does not shy away from telling you, in no uncertain terms, what the fuck is up, and it is not this diaper change MOM.
But that sense of justice also has a tender side: yesterday at daycare, a kid was in one of those little cozy coupe cars and it started to tip over. Ellie SPRINTED across the playground and held the car up, shouting, “HELP, HELP!” until a teacher got there.
Oh the WORDS this child has now! And not just words, but whole sentences! Last week, during a diaper change, she was kicking and screaming (see: injustice, above) and kicked the box off wipes of the changing table. She stopped mid-scream and said, “Uh oh. Tissue [her word for wipes] fell down.” Right, it sure did. And how do you think that happened, Ellie?
She’s also strongly into ‘no’ right now. ‘No’ is the answer to every question, even if she really means ‘yes.’ And sometimes ‘no’ is the answer even if we haven’t asked a question (she volunteers ‘no’ preemptively). She also likes to draw out the word, enunciating slowwwllly for the clowns she lives with who can’t seem to keep a firm grasp on the obvious.
I watch her on the video monitor after I put her to bed. She points around the room, naming things, and then telling it, firmly, NO. NO, bear. NO, tissue. NO, Elmo. No no no no no. Eventually she lies down and strokes her soft blankie. “No.” She whispers. “No.”
It’s finally getting a bit cooler outside, and the first leaves are starting to turn. Ellie and I took a walk last weekend and she had fun stomping on the few leaves that had fallen. I was watching my child, my real, live, living child as she tried (unsuccessfully) to jump on the leaves to achieve greater crunch volume, and had one of those mind blown moments. One of those heart bursting moments. Look! I have a child! And she is perfect.
And yet, there’s some dissonance as we get into the Fall. The leaves that my child so happily stomps are a vivid, nauseating reminder of one of the worst days of my life.
But this year is not last year, or the year before. Just as the seasons change, so do the years. I don’t know if I’ll ever “get over it,” if such a thing is even possible. But each year that passes makes the pain a little less sharp and and little less jagged. The serrated edges are being worn over with time.
This year, like last year, I’ve got my Ellie. A living embodiment of my heart’s desire.
This year, I won’t even be home on the anniversary. I’ll be out of town at a work conference. Maybe that will be better.
And, this year, I can well and truly say: fuck those leaves. This year we’ve got a lawn service.