Happy birthday, little girl! How is it possible that you're 1? I've been scratching my head all week wondering where the time went.
But when we're in the guest room and the computer goes to screen-saver mode and starts scrolling through all your photos, I realize just how much you've changed. We sit there together, talk about "baby Allison" and marvel at how different you looked each month.
I just hope I cherished all of those moments enough.
A few days ago, I was standing in line at the deli while getting our groceries for the week and the man in front of me was telling the woman behind the counter all about his new little girl. He was rattling off her birth stats and I couldn't help but smile. Never one to shy away from a conversation, I congratulated him and told him he was in for one of the most interesting years of his life.
But after his order was filled and he walked away, I couldn't help but think there is no way to convey to someone with a new baby what lies ahead. All of the adjectives in every language on the planet couldn't describe all of the ways you developed and grew and affixed yourself to my life and my heart and my being.
Just by being you.
As usual, the changes abounded this month. The most exciting thing is that you've developed a sense of humor. You now know what it means to be funny, and apparently you've inherited your father's desire to make people laugh.
I'm not exactly sure how it started, but I was holding you in my arms one afternoon and we spent a good five minutes taking turns sticking our tongues out at each other. You would do it, I would laugh, then I would do it and you would laugh. It continued for so long that, by the end, we were both laughing so hard and loud that we had to stop and catch our breath.
I can honestly say that I have never laughed so freely and genuinely at something so simple.
You also started initiating peek-a-boo this month -- and crack yourself up in the process.
Dad had just gotten home from work and we were all sitting in the hallway, tossing a stuffed carrot to Toby when you crawled into the bathroom and got behind the door to play with the springy doorstopper. When you were out of sight, we asked, "Where's Allison? Where'd she go?"
At once, you peeked into view with a huge grin on your face, laughed and swung the door shut. Dad and I looked at each other expectantly, wondering whether you'd do it again, when we heard another giggle. Then you opened the door and peered out, squealing. And closed the door again.
You constantly remind me to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
You also started walking this month. Placing one foot in front of the other. On your own.
You have been doing it with assistance for awhile now. I try to encourage it by making you walk from room to room rather than carrying you. You are so excited by your new skills that you screech when I grab both of your hands. Then you take off before I can even point you in the direction we need to go.
When I take one hand away, you continue to walk a little more cautiously, but only with the goal of getting my other hand back. You keep going, arm outstretched, unable to understand why I wouldn't just give it to you.
Believe me, I would like nothing more than to be there to hold your hand forever, figuratively if not literally, but sometimes it means doing what's best to help you grow.
And it paid off last week.
We had just gotten up for the morning and you stood in the center of the guest room amid all your toys, smiled and took three steps toward me in your footed pajamas.
It's a good thing Dad and Toby were still sleeping because I probably would've scared you with the cheer that wanted to erupt out of me. Instead I just clapped and hugged you close. I know someday those steps will be going in the other direction, so I want you to know that I'm reveling in the fact that your first ones were motivated by your desire to get closer to me.
We also started attending a weekly play group at the library. You are by far the youngest one there, but you don't seem to notice or care.
The very first day you crawled out of my lap, went up to another little girl and handed her the toy you had been playing with. One of the other moms, whose son is the next youngest, kept remarking how outgoing and social you are. I had been worried that lack of interaction with other kids would inhibit your social skills, but like many things already, you've proven me wrong.
Most of the other kids stick close to their grandma or mom, but you crawl freely around the room, inspecting things, using other people's legs to stand up, handing toys to the big kids, patting heads and sharing your smile.
Everyone remarks what a happy little girl you are.
I'd like to think that I had something to do with it, but most of that is just you, Alli. You seem to have a very special gift -- a caring and constantly sunny disposition. Even if you lose it on occasion, I hope you're always able to summon it when you need it most.
You also attended your first concert this month. I know, it sounds absolutely crazy. And, believe me, we questioned whether or not you'd even understand what was going on, let alone enjoy it. But when Dad got free box seat tickets to see the Wiggles, well, we couldn't resist.
After all, you're crazy about music.
So we put you in the car and hoped for the best. The box had all sorts of fresh fruit, so we knew we'd have a fallback if anything went horribly awry. If there's anything you love more than music, it's melon.
But when the Wiggles took the stage, you were completely enamored. So much so that I was able to ignore the fact that I've traded concerts by Grammy Award-winning artists for creepy, overly enthusiastic middle-aged men singing about their lame-ass car. It was so fun watching you take it all in.
Dad hoisted you on top of the table in front of us and you bopped to the beat, clapping and smiling and otherwise just being completely adorable. Even among all of the older kids in the box who clearly had an understanding of who the Wiggles were, I would bet anything that you enjoyed it the most.
And we didn't even have to shell out 19 bucks for a glowing rainbow wand.
Allison, I've been looking forward to writing this letter all year. It's absolutely unfathomable to me that I was pacing the halls of a hospital one year ago, anxiously awaiting your arrival. There are parts of that day that will forever be ingrained in my memory, but most of all the moment I got to look at your face for the first time.
Anyone who doesn't believe in love at first sight hasn't had a child.
I had no idea what I was in for when you came into our lives, but any expectations I had about what parenthood would be like were far exceeded. You've given me purpose. My life has more meaning than it ever did before. Of all the jobs I've had in the past and even those yet to come, none will be more important than being your mother.
And in exchange, you've allowed me a second chance. An opportunity to experience everything for the first time all over again. What used to be mundane is now something to explore -- textures, sounds, lights, colors and flavors. I'm enjoying things I haven't paid attention to in years.
So, yes, this day is for you. And it always will be. I can't wait to watch you squish cake in your hair and ignore your presents in exchange for eating the wrapping paper. But every year as we sing to you, I won't just be celebrating the day you came into this world. I'll be celebrating having you in my life.