Happy 3rd birthday, my big girl! I’m late writing your birthday letter this year. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re the third child in a growing family.
Both Nana and Gaba forgot to bring their cameras to your cupcake birthday party.
“You can tell Mary’s not our first grandchild,” Gaba laughed.
True, but don’t ever think for a minute that you’re any less loved or cherished.
At this point in your life, I don’t have to worry one iota about you feeling special. Oh, child, you’re not lacking in confidence – or happiness. You float through the day, batting those gloriously long eyelashes that frame your earthy green eyes while (mostly) getting what you want and (sometimes) getting away with what you shouldn’t. You may be a new 3-year-old, but you know how to run this place. Yet, you’re easily appeased (usually) when life doesn’t go exactly the way you’d like. Even when you do get upset or someone else upsets you, once things have settled down the not-so-nice memory seems to vanish. You’re not one to hold grudges.
My lovely Mary Elizabeth, if you’re not blissfully floating, happy in your own little world, then we might find you dancing around on the tips of your toes. You naturally walk on pointe even on our hardwood floors. After observing your twinkle toes, I tried it – ouch! But you’ve been doing it since you were young. You’re definitely our tiny dancer. You love to spin around, especially while wearing one of your frothy tutus.
And your dancing is always carefree. No stiff, overly choreographed movements. You express your joy and happiness with life and your simple world with your mellow movement. Two separate people on two different occasions laughed watching you tote around a purse and twirl around. Then each of them referred to you as a hippie. You’re definitely a free spirit, a true sanguine. Bouyant, you waft through the world without too many cares. You also have a proclivity for wearing flower-shaped sunglasses outdoors as well as indoors. That might have something to do with the flower child description.
Then there’s your scatterbrained ways. Oh, my little klepto. You’re always taking things and making them your own trinkets to hide away in one of the many purses you’ve claimed as your own. You never put things back. You undress every single doll in our house, and you always leave mismatched socks, ribbons, hairclips and rubber bands you’ve pulled out of your hair, and other odds and ends in your wake. Sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy. Yet, I’ve learned that while like every child you need boundaries, you won’t be happy if I insist on everything being organized and regulated all of the time. I hate for things to be out of place, but you seem to appreciate the beauty of chaos. I’m trying to not demand perfect tidiness from you.
However, when we can’t find something (um, like our handpainted doll of St. Anthony of Padua; the irony has not escaped me that the Saint of Lost Things has been missing since Christmas), we do automatically look to you and raid your loot in search of the MIA object. Just this week I couldn’t find a pair of chic flats I’d just had on and was on a search and rescue mission when you told me they were in my bathroom by the bathtub. Sure enough, there they were.
“I was trying them on,” you confessed.
Ah, my sweet, girly-girl. You have a style all your own. You like to wear your hot pink flip-flops with everything even jeans ( sandals with jeans fits the hippie image). Pop once said the Lord made you extra cute so you wouldn’t drive us absolutely crazy with your absentmindness and your in-the-middle-of-the-night tantrums. They’re getting better, but life seems to fall apart for you at 2 a.m.
Besides nocturnal tantrums and your reluctance to share with Rae (which usually results in horrifying screeching emitted from that tiny yet powerful mouth of yours), it’s all good, especially when you get to curl up with me and have sweet mama’s milk after you’ve brushed your teeth with “poopaste” (your name for toothpaste that makes all of us laugh). You’re getting to be such a big girl, but you’re still so much of a baby and very much a mama’s girl.
“I love you,” I tell you at bedtime.
“I love you, too,” you say, your body folded into mine.
The world is a beautiful place, and you know it. “Look! A live ladybug!” you pointed out to me this week. (We find a lot of dead ones upstairs.)
You flash your glittery nails painted by Miss Kaitlyn, the babysitter you adore.
You slip a hand-picked flower into my hand.
You observe me getting ready and tell me I’m “bootiful” and then ask for lip gloss. One day you saw me all dolled up for church, and you said, “When I’m a mommy, I want those shoes and that shirt and those jeans [I was wearing white pants, not jeans] and your hair and your eyes and your lips…” You’re good on a girl’s ego.
“Watch me!” you command as you dance around dressed up like a princess.
I love your happiness. Once you were in the car with one of your sisters when a folk version I love of “You Are My Sunshine” started playing.
One sister remarked that it was a sad song that broke her heart, but you argued that it was happy song. You see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Not that you don’t have your opinions. Or any trepidation about expressing them. On the contrary, you can be quite feisty, and you know what you want. (Um, you’re screaming at me right now. “Mom. My. Mi. Lk.” That’s your way of very emphatically asking for mama’s milk.)
Just last week you crawled into bed in the middle of the night and made your claim on the acreage your tall daddy was occupying by saying, “Move over. Now!”
Aside from people labeling you as a hippie, we were once at a restaurant, and a waitress took one look at you and said, “Well, isn’t she a hot mess?” A mischevious grin spread across your food-encrusted face. I wasn’t sure what to make of the remark at first. What exactly is a hot mess? Daddy and I wondered. According to Wiktionary, a “hot mess” is slang for a person, thing or situation in a pitiful disarray. Well, I’m not sure about the “pitiful” part, but I’d say you are a walking disarray. How is it that hand-me-down dresses can be repeatedly worn by a cousin, your two sisters, and still be in pristine condition, can be worn by you for no longer than 30 minutes, and they end up permanently splattered in kaledescopic stains?
You are a hot mess, and messes on you or around you certainly don’t bother you.
Soiled diapers don’t bother you either, which is making you a more recalcitrant potty trainer than your sisters who were extremely easy. (Parenting is such a humbling journey.) You’ve also been known to add your artistic touches to our walls more times than I’d like to count, and your skin is your favorite canvas. Sigh. You love Play-Doh, but you don’t create much with it. Instead, you like to plaster it to toys or furniture or your skin. Sometimes you make birthday cakes with it or cupcakes. You have a thing for cupcakes right now (thus, the cupcake birthday bash).
You’re sassy, expressive, a real ham, a dancer, a dreamer, a queen, a princess, a lovely flower child, a spunky, feisty little girl who is deliciously self-assured. One day this week I awoke to you gently caressing my face. The sun was just beginning to filter through the blinds. Thomas was still snuggled sleeping peacefully beside me. In other words, it was really early.
“What time is it?” I asked groggily.
You cocked your head to the side, thought for just a moment, and then replied, “Um, 40 seconds” with such confidence that I could almost believe 40 seconds was a time of day.
Thanks to you, I started my day laughing.
Oh, you’re beguiling alright.
My sweet Mary Elizabeth, you fell into my arms as a tiny bundle. Yes, you almost literally fell. I was standing up when I felt the urge to push, and you nearly popped right out then and there. One push was all it took. Those early months are a bit of a blur, but I remember how tiny you were and how you had red hair and the brightest blue eyes. Those red locks should have been a clue to the fire in your spirit, your chutzpah. The bright red has been replaced with strawberry blonde strands, but the spunk remains. You make me laugh daily. You’ve got a great sense of humor. You’ve got a sense of purpose, too. Ain’t nobody gonna break your stride. Oh no. You’ve got to keep on moving. (I sing that cheesy song when I’m in need of a pick-me-up. The 80s had it going on.)
Three is going to be a good year. There’s so much to see and do. Just promise me, you won’t let anyone steal your joy. That’s your treasure. Keep it safe. Float through life buoyant on that joy. Don’t let anyone burst that happy bubbly bubble of yours. Dance. People are watching. And they’re catching your happiness. They’re laughing and smiling and yes, sometimes eye-rolling because of you. But they see you – all of you – and it does something to them. You do something to me. You make me smile and giggle even when life gets messy (because you drew on the wall again or tattooed your skin again with not-so-washable markers).
Happy birthday, my hot mess, flower child, love of my life, my love, my dove, my treasure divine, my dear Mary Elizabeth. I love you to the moon and back.