The long slow climb
A little over a week ago, our daughter had a birthday. She's three, which means she's fully-equipped now to look forward to and enjoy occasions like these, even if when they arrive she claps her hands over her eyes when she discovers herself at the center of everyone's attention.
Three years ago, when Emma Purl was born, we lived in Arroyo Grande, California. It was my seventh year in California, and Felicia's tenth or eleventh, I think. I don't think either of us expected we'd still be Californians, but there we were, Californian as could be. I'd moved there in 2003, after spending almost a year in Washington, recovering from a marriage that had gone sideways; Felicia moved to California for college. (She finished, unlike Mr. Three-Time-Dropout over here.)
It took us a while to meet. It wasn't until 2007, six months after I took a job near the Starbucks where Felicia worked, that I began to notice her. That was January or so, and it took me way too long to say more than a few words to her. In June I asked her out; by July she was convinced that we were dating, and not just hanging out. Three years later, we got married at a wine bar that our friend had recently opened in Arroyo Grande. We wore cowboy boots. There were no Biblical sentiments read at the wedding, but a friend read Ann Druyan's thoughts about love. Our rather metal friend, with his enviably long hair and non-denominational ordainment license, married us. (While giving his long hair a nice long flip, at Felicia's request.)
In 2011 we decided we were ready to be parents, and at the end of the year, we welcomed Squish.
She was, of course, perfect: healthy and pink and always willing to fall asleep on us. I have wonderful memories of walking around San Luis Obispo wearing Squish against my chest, watching her blink out at the world around her, then close her eyes and snore again.
At the end of the following year, we packed our things and moved to Oregon. To be perfectly honest, we miss California dearly. For a time we lived in Morro Bay, and it was one of the happiest, most quaint places I think we've ever resided. You could smell the ocean, when it wasn't raining, because it was barely half a mile from our front door. We sometimes talk about going back. We're not always convinced Oregon is the home we thought it would be.
But that's just me and Felicia. Emma doesn't know the difference yet. Every day is full of toys and tricycles and playground adventures. When I come home from work these days, she practically tackles me. She's gotten so big so quickly, and talks like a little adult, albeit a very strange one. (Sample conversation: "Emma, who are you talking to?" "I'm talking to the poo-poo in my butt, Daddy.")
Her actual birthday was spent under cover of darkness. During a heavy windstorm, our power went out, and we celebrated by candlelight and electric lantern glow. She didn't seem to mind: birthdays are birthdays, and she opened her gifts and blew out her candles with the best of them. But a few days later, her grandparents came to visit, and we had a second birthday party.
There are times when I look at her and think about how old I'll be when she discovers sports, or when she graduates high school, or falls in love. If my math is right, when Emma was born, I was a decade older than my folks were when I was born. She's going to be five, then ten, then thirty, before I know it.
So the things that I think about these days are a lot different than the things I thought about not all that long ago. I prowled through some old blog posts to see what was on my mind in past Decembers. In 2003, I was about two years into the writing of Eleanor, but it seems that the thing I was most interested in was whether or not someone might gift me the Alien Quadrilogy, a boxed set of all four (at the time) Alien films. In 2006 I was excited to have been gifted the Superman boxed set. Right around 2007, though, when Felicia entered my life, you can see things start to shift. And this year, I mostly think about the good fortune that we've found, and how to make the most of it—for Emma's sake, and for our family's.
My daughter is three, but I've just discovered that I'm sort of a grownup now. (Which means I'm slowly catching up with Felicia, who, though five years my younger, has a huge lead on me in Responsible Adulthood.)
Happy holidays, everyone.