1. Every time you see a wreath, you shout “Nana!” She made the one with gingerbread men and red ribbons that hangs between our living and dining rooms. Nana is the Queen of Comedy in your book. Last time she babysat you, you stayed up till nine. She told Mama “He wasn’t interested in going to bed.” As if bedtime were a hobby you’d considered and abandoned, like golf.
2. When you see worms in books, you say “Mommy!” For a minute, I was scared you’d had some premonition about me getting cancer and becoming skinny and bald again. Then I remembered I have a tattoo of a snake on my back. You must watch me as I walk away.
3. We still don’t know why you say “Mama!” when you see one particular Andy Warhol drawing of a panda, or Eric Carle’s Red Bird Red Bird.
4. You say “Santa!” though you prefer the ones in books and store windows to actual men in red suits. Mechanical Santas are the worst. You don’t quite trust things that move by themselves. The other day our electric toothbrush, which you love, got away from you and rattled about on the wood floor. You backed away like it was a snake.
5. You have not said “Gramps,” “Granny” or “Grandpa,” although you can point them out in pictures. These are not easy words to wrap your mouth around. Your pronunciation is meh, your vocabulary is good, your curiosity is boundless. I want you to delight in your other grandparents the way you do in Nana, but I don’t know how to manage your feelings and theirs at the same time, or if I should. I probably shouldn’t. All in good time. Is there time?
6. Last weekend we visited Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, one of those blocks where everyone agrees to go full National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with lights and decorations. I remember being cold and usually a little bored there as a kid. You were the right age for it, but overwhelmed by the crowds (which have grown). You wouldn’t let Gramps or Granny carry you, but you walked and held their hands with one of yours. First mine plus Gramps’, then mine plus Granny’s. Separately, they reported this holding of hands to your Aunt Cathy.
7. We’ve agreed not to tell you that Santa is real. At one point in my life this would have been a great moral quandary. Now I think that fictional characters are plenty magical on their own. Maybe more so.
8. We sent your birthmother an email and photos last month and for the second time she didn’t respond. When I think about her taking a break and getting her life together, I feel okay. When I think about the possibility of you growing up not knowing her, I don’t feel okay. But however things turn out, I know that she loves you and thinks of you every single day. I know that her distance is born of those facts.
9. You have her square teeth. Her bedroom eyes. Her happy disposition. Which is not to say that you or she will always be happy.
10. When she saw you at ten months old, she ran her hand through your wisps of hair and said “I think it will be straight, but full.” That is panning out. Your bangs have finally reached your eyebrows, and you’re due for a second haircut.
11. You have: a slightly funky bite (because of your paci habit, probably), long eyelashes, a mischievous glint in your dark brown eyes, long legs, skin that is not yet tan but promises to be.
12. You like: Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, trains, Masha and the Bear (which you call “ammul!”) and Chuggington (“’ain!”), vans, trash cans, Trader Joe’s Citrus Chicken Salad, “owl” (your word for the penguin-shaped pouches I pour smoothies into), eggs, laundry, sweeping, frozen bee teethers, baths, saying “Nigh-nigh baby” as you comfort a stuffed cat or monkey, jumping on the bed, petting cats and then tormenting them, and all the agua. Still and always agua.
13. You dislike: when one of us leaves, toys that move by themselves, quesadillas, plain avocados, swinging (ever since you fell off a tire swing and did a face-plant in the sand), sitting still in restaurants while grownups talk.
14. You know what letters are and say “Ay-bee” for ABC’s and point to the O on the Cheerios box and say “Oh.” When I wear a shirt with a word on it you point to my chest and start singing the alphabet song.
15. It’s fun to teach you things. Or rather, it’s fun to watch you learn—to watch the human brain as it clicks and whirs and unfurls, becoming a particular you.
16. Since I started writing this post two days ago, you’ve started saying “Papa” for “Grandpa” (Mama’s dad). It is a much more beautiful sound than Santa.
17. Tonight I took you to McDonald’s for dinner because it was my last day of work and I was feeling lazy and junk-foodie. I tried to make you eat apple slices while I drank a chocolate milkshake, and you were having none of it. You didn’t catch onto the milkshake, but you liked the muffin part of the Egg McMuffin we shared way more than the apple slices, and you liked the hash browns too. They’re so greasy and crunchy. How could you not? I felt like a fraud. Like I was lighting up a crack pipe in front of you and telling you not to do drugs. I have food issues. You have a genetic predisposition for heart disease. I’m not sure whether I’m being too hard on myself for taking you to McDonald’s now and then, or too easy.
19. You call all your teachers “Debbie.” I think the word “Debbie” equals “teacher” to you. One of your teachers is named Debbie. The others are Kelly, Yesenia, Nyeli and Aracely. Kelly and Yesenia are my favorites. I’ve learned so much from them; they’re like a parenting pit crew. I’m going to miss them all when you move up to the toddler room in January.
20. Tonight we took home a package, wrapped in red tissue paper, containing all your holiday art from daycare. A tree painted greenish-blackish-blue and stuck with stickers. A snowman on black paper. A paper ornament with your picture. You look like a little boy in it, not a baby at all.