Dear Joelle: One

Dear Joelle, 

Your mother and I agreed to write you a letter every year on your birthday. This letter is a little late, but that’s okay because you can’t read yet! I’ve hemmed and hawed over what to write and how to write it. I settled on a “slice of life” post. By the end of this letter, you should have a decent idea of what life was like for you and your family during the summer of 2019. 

Right now I’m sitting in my old room in Nana’s basement surrounded by crumpled up gum wrappers and stained coffee mugs, each filled with varying levels of caffeinated sludge. I can hear your small and sweet giggle coming from upstairs where you’re playing with Nana and Papa. 

The summer of 2019 will be ending soon. Your mom got a new job working at a place called ManTech (what a silly name!). I’ve been teaching middle school English for the last ten years. Since I’m a teacher, I got to spend the entire summer hanging out with you. It has been one of the most fulfilling chunks of my life.

Let’s run through a typical in the life of Daddy and the Bean. Daddy is BIG into routines and schedules, so most of our days followed the same format. You would wake up around 6:30 AM, eat breakfast lovingly and graciously prepared by Mommy, then play with your toys until around 9:00 AM. That’s when I would pack our things into the car and drive to “soft play.” Soft play is a big room filled with squishy equipment for kids to crawl on, over, and under. You always charmed whoever was there with your playful demeanor and friendly disposition. We would spend an hour at soft play. 

After we got home it was snack time. I would spoon feed you from a single serving packet of baby food (always a fruit + veggie combo). Then the two of us plopped down on the floor to watch some Sesame Street videos. When you read this, find me and say “This is a song about Elmo, who likes to sing and…” I am 100% positive that I will answer with “YELL-MO!” 

Lunch was always at noon. Me: burrito. You: squishy vegetables and some sort of protein. Normally you would be getting sleepy at this point. I always knew because you would rub your tiny eyes with your tiny fists and take off take your tiny glasses. The two of us got so good at this that by the end of summer, I could take you upstairs, change you, and put you to sleep in under thirteen minutes. I timed it! 

You’d nap until 2:30. While you napped, I exercised, cleaned the kitchen, and read. Always in that order. The time between 2:30 and when Mom returned was often a grab bag of activities. Sometimes we stayed home; sometimes we went to Nana’s; sometimes we went to another soft play session.  

After a family dinner around 5:30 the three of us would play in the living room. Your favorite game was (and still is!) to be chased. You would stop every few feet to turn around and make sure someone was chasing you. The closer we would get to you, the more you would giggleshriek. When we got to you, we would snatch you up and tickle you under the arms or under your chin. Around 6-6:30 we would bathe you, read you a story, and tuck you in for the night. This pattern repeated for the entire summer. 

And then you came down with a stomach bug. The next seven days were scary. Our beautiful routine that ensured a healthy combination of play, rest, and nourishment collapsed as your fledgling immune system struggled to keep up with what must have been one heck of a bug. You were inconsolable. I spent hours cradling you in the dark as you cried and bucked wildly against me. I wanted you to know that I loved you and that I was with you in the darkness. You couldn’t keep anything down, so your mother and I took 30 minute shifts holding you and squirting micro doses of Pedialyte into your mouth with a plastic syringe. We literally nursed you back to health. I became convinced that you would never smile again. But after ten days or so, your sweet self finally returned.  By the time you healed, our summer together was just about over. 

I wonder how old you will be when you first read this. What is life like? Are bananas still your favorite fruit? Do you still like to pull on Daddy’s beard? Is Lola still alive?

Love you always, 

Dad

P.S. If you’re having a hard time reading this letter, that’s okay! You will become a strong reader as you get older.

Until then, here: Hi, Joelle! I love you so much. The two of us spent your first summer playing, eating, and laughing. You are the best thing to ever happen to me. You are funny, smart, curious, and playful. I am writing this in 2019 and you are 14 months old. Bananas are your favorite thing to eat. You love being chased, caught, and tickled. You also like to dance to music and to pull on doggy’s ears and tail. I love you I love you I love you.

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