Marking time: A love letter to our girl at 18 months

Maya wakes up in the morning, puts her face far, far too close to mine, and says, with breathless optimism, “Hi.” Now 18 months, she focuses with such intensity on the task at hand — whisking vegetables around a small pot in her kitchen, mumbly “reading” to herself, or sorting finger puppets one-by-one.

She knows “animal,” “turtle,” and, oddly, “newt.” “Wha-what?” she asks, all day long, pointing at everything.

Naturally good-natured (unilke both her parents!), cloudy weather in the form of sudden squalls sometimes appears, but usually dissipates. She has never met a stranger and welcomes surprised people to “her” street or store like a small, impertinent ambassador, waving at them with the enviable certainty they are there to visit her. She can walk, and, lately, almost run, and pull her small legs through the space between her arms to make it down the slide alone.

On the average day, she is mostly willing to follow basic instructions: putting items in her room, tracking down her shoes from the heap, and valiantly attempting to feed herself soup with a “shpoon.”

She has a stubborn streak as wide as the one in her father mother maternal grandmother, to match the intensity of her intentions, which are sometimes nothing short of mastery. At 13 months, we watched her cross a doorway with a small step in it some 30 times, until she could do it without a look of concentration. She consumes her favorite books (last week, the tongue-punishing “Fox in Socks;” this week, the predictably comforting “Everywhere Babies”) a dozen times a day, until they are worn out and have revealed all their merry singsong secrets. She loves music and stomps her feet and twirls with pleasure, plundering her basket of instruments and banging the claves on every nearby surface to hear the differences in sound.

The sounds she makes are changing all too fast, so swiftly it takes my breath away. New words come daily, and a loud insistence on doing things herself, without even my protective arm. Her only phrase? “No way.”

Blink! The baby is gone, long gone, and we stand here, just watching her, and waiting for the little girl.

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