Dear Zoey, I was planning on writing you letters for the future. A letter for the first time you hate me, for the first time your heart breaks, for the first time you realize that life is not fair, for the first time you fall in love, for the first time I disappoint you. I thought I had at least a decade to get these done, but over the past few days I have realized that it's too late. In April you will be three years old; already you have fallen in love, had your heart broken, realized that life is not fair. Already I have disappointed you in a thousand different ways that seem to me unflinchingly tiny, but to you are insurmountably large, the lenses of our hearts tilted as they are at different angles.
Yesterday I bought you a small heart-shaped box of cheap chocolates at the grocery store and told you we could not open them until we got home. I was driving on the freeway when I heard you in the backseat whispering, sorry mommy, I'm so sorry mommy. When I looked back your fingers were slick with chocolate and you were stuffing them in your mouth, two at a time. Zoey! I said, quite frankly surprised at your disobedience. But you did not stop, even when I yelled. You just kept apologizing, as if it couldn't be helped. Sorry, mommy. And there was nothing I could do.
It's been rough lately, between us. One minute you demand for me to hold you, grab my hand as I am eating so that you can pinch my skin absentmindedly, rice falling from my fork and into the grain of the carpet. You are my sunshine, I sing, you laugh, dance, but if I so much as tap my foot to the beat you scream, no! Quick like those wooden toys of small colorful animals, as if I have pushed my thumb into your base you collapse on the floor in a heap of limbs and loose string. Writhing, you actually writhe, and you scream and I cannot understand a word you are saying.
Another day, another car ride. It had been an emotional morning. I had a job interview to get to and you would not sit on your potty. The mere mention of pee reduced you to tears and you pushed me away, hard. Fine, I said, my interview boots clacking down the hallway, you get a time out. One minute later I returned to find you collapsed in a puddle of carpet-soaked urine and you clung to my neck, sobbing. I changed us both and we got in the car, the morning sun low on the horizon. Momma, the sun! you cried. The sun hurts my eyes! Momma move the sun! Move the sun! Help! And there was nothing I could do; it couldn't be helped.
Part of me wants to only write about the good stuff, how my heart jumps each time I encircle you in a hug and feel the smallness of your body, the way you flash your eyes when making a joke, the space between our faces when we nap together. But that wouldn't be right, wouldn't be fair to us. After all, we are mother and daughter, and there will doubtless be many times when we disappoint each other, surprise each other with how very human we are. But what I want you to know is this: the minute you came into this world my life reset itself to first. First love, first heart break, first friend, first family, first you. You first. If I could move the sun for you I would, because forever after you I have felt the weight of your light on my face, your warmth on my lips, and I have been driving with the sun in my eyes ever since.
All my love,