By Sarah Bousquet
“Let’s do arts and crafts, mama!” says my daughter, her request decidedly different than just a few weeks ago when we were doing “arts and craps.”
“What did you say?” I ask her.
“Arts and crafts!”
Her pronunciation is perfect, that very tricky “f” sound followed by the “t.” I am proud, of course, but I also feel something else, a tiny pang. The funny word has disappeared, slipped away with so many others. I’m still holding onto “bobana” and “libary.”
These are the little things that can’t be photographed or stored in a box. The minutiae of age two. I attempt to memorize it, imprint it like an internal tattoo.
When someone asks, “How old is she?” I want to say two-and-a-half, but that’s not quite true. She’s getting closer to three with each passing day, and so sometimes I answer, “She’ll be three in January,” trying get acquainted with that big new number. A number that makes my heart race a little.
But January still feels far away, maybe because the fall season has stretched itself out long and colorful here in the Northeast. The ground is carpeted with crunchy leaves and the trees are bright with reds and golds. I’ve been willing the season to stay, and magically, it’s obeyed.
My daughter collects leaves in bunches, filling buckets and baby carriages, carting leaves back and forth across the yard. We arrange some on the table, paint them and make prints, glue them to our watercolor creations. We capture them while we can.
This is how I feel about the season of age two. I want to keep it, stash it away, fill all the buckets of my memory bank, trap time.
There are the Cheerios balanced in the bowl she takes into the play room, because Cheerios are best crunched in front of cartoons. A few will find their way to the corners of the couch and onto the carpet, crushed beneath small feet. I will come later with the vacuum and grumble about it, and then think, soon I will miss this.
There is the “monkey trick” she does at the playground, grasping any bar within her reach and swinging her legs out. Her attempts to master the balance beam. The way she now pushes me away, “I can do it by myself, mama.”
There are the books she’s memorized. She pulls them from the shelf and settles herself next to the cat and says, “I’m going to read him a book!” And there she is, turning the pages and reading the story on her own.
There is our coffee ritual at the grocery store. She sits in the cart kicking her legs, pulling at the greeting cards. I hand her the coffee can lid to hold while I peel the thin aluminum seal and reveal shiny dark brown beans. I inhale the rich scent and then put it under her nose. But instead of sniffing, she exhales. It makes me laugh every time. I pour the beans into the machine. The loud motor whirs, and she startles, then laughs, delighted as the grounds pour through the shoot. She helps secure the lid, and I think, the smell of fresh ground coffee will always be this.
There is the rosy-cheeked exuberance of running inside from a sunrise walk with her dad, the smell of fresh air as she hugs me. The way she digs into her pockets for the beach treasures she collected. The frosty browns and greens of the sea glass she plunks down carefully on the table. We examine them together, smooth-edged from salt water, transformed over time.
There is the carefree joy of running toward the giant pile of brown leaves dotted with orange and red, the way she dives in and tosses leaves into the air. “Jump in the leaves, mama!”
I run after her and fall into the pile. We lie next to each other, staring up at the fiery red maple leaves against the blue sky. There is no one around to take a photograph, and it doesn’t matter. I hear the rustle and crunch. Smell the damp. Feel myself sink into the soft bed of leaves against the cold ground. See that sweet two-year-old smile.
We bring leaves back to the craft table. I have a new trick to show her. I slip a maple leaf between two pieces of paper and gently rub the graphite over the hidden leaf. Slowly it reveals itself, the intricate edges, tiny veins, strong stem. A perfect replica, a moment memorized. A version we can keep.
Sarah Bousquet is Brain Child’s 2016 New Voice of the Year. She lives in coastal Connecticut with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is currently at work on a memoir. She blogs daily truths at https://onebluesail.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarah_bousquet.