Little sisters, part 1, of wonder-what’s-to-come

9 01 2015

It’s not an exaggeration to say that my absolute favourite thing about these girls–and I have a lot of favourites–is that there are two of them, and they know it, and they LOVE it, which is part of and at the same time a precursor of (since they’re so small they don’t really know what it means yet, especially the smallest, who doesn’t yet even know that they’re not the same creature) loving each other. The first thing Evanny says when she gets home from nursery school or wakes up from a nap, if I meet her with empty arms, is “where’s my baby?” If visitors dare to call Tatha by some diminutive we don’t use often (“sweet little pumpkin,” say), she leaps loudly to the defensive: “That’s not ‘pumpkin,’ that’s my SISTER!” Being so much smaller, Tabitha still cringes when Evanny, so busy and boisterous, comes at her, but once she arrives and demonstrates her growing ability to attack gently, she’s met with smiles (soft, quiet, knowing smiles as often as the yawning, face-splitting giant kind).  “My baby’s crying,” Ev will tell me, if I’m not moving fast enough to solve the problem, and in the back seat, on the way home from wherever we’ve been to wear them out this time, we hear her saying, using phrases she’s learned from me, “I know, Tabby-Tabby, I know.  It’s okay, little baby.  We’ll go home soon.  I know.”

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Blue chair portraiture on its side–“Tabby tickles me!” Evanny shrieks, kicking her feet up into the air.

This sisterhood, this amazing thing that’s happened to us, is a blessing in a thousand ways. I feel like the beneficiary of something miraculous: I wasn’t even supposed to admit caring about the sex of my first baby, and having said baby, I certainly wasn’t supposed to get picky about the second, so I didn’t say anything to much of anybody other than Matt (since he was in charge of sperm delivery, I thought it would work best if he knew what he was aiming for), but I wanted this so badly.  My whole life I’ve wanted this–I was three when my mom asked me whether I wanted a sister or a brother, and still three when she gave me the opposite of what I asked for.  In this pair of little girls, I feel like I’ve been given the blessings I thought I’d missed out on for good (“It would be the last Unicorn in the world that came to Molly Grue“), given back the chance to see childhood sister-coloured the way I always wished to see it.  I don’t have to be jealous anymore, when women I know casually drop the phrase “my sister” (or, even more tantalizingly, “my sisters”), because I have sisters of my own now: my babies are sisters, and they’re mine, and while I might be, ultimately, just the facilitator of the sisterhood, the one who sets it up, winds it while they’re little, and then lets it go, it’s closer than I ever thought I’d be, and at the point of toddler-and-babyhood, it’s as intimate a surrounding in sister-ness as possible, since I’m both the hands and voice that guide every interaction and I have the remove and reflective wherewithal to notice how wonderful it is, to stick words on it, to take pictures, while they’re still at the stage of exploring that first beautiful impulse to squeal in delight at the quick flare of the other’s grin.

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“This is how my sister makes me feel”: they’re looking at each other in both of these shots; the camera just observing what they do.

I’ve noted before how when somebody makes Evanny sad, she runs to Tabitha to hold her tiny hands for comfort, but as Tabitha gets more interactive and three-dimensional, so has their togetherness blossomed. When Tatha wakes up cranky, the sight of Evanny’s smile evokes one of her own in an instant. When she needs her pants changed, Evanny climbs the side of the changing table to be able to see and smile with her face–just like she climbs into her bassinet (over the couch) and crib (right up the side), and when I open my mouth to scold her for doing it AGAIN, I often find them both smiling up at me. At 5-and-a-half months, Tabitha is just starting to be big enough for any kind of real baby play, and Evvy has jumped into that opportunity with both feet, rubbing her belly to make her laugh, dangling things for her to try to reach, gently applying tools from her doctor kit to the prone “patient” on the floor (so far, what works best is offering medicine in the pretend syringe, which Tatha is always glad to suck on). Big sis can’t wait to share food with the small one, and bides her time with repetition: “Tabby no have choch-lat. She’s too little. Tabby no have sippy cup.  She’s too little.  Tabby no have pizza. She’s too little.” If we’re in the nursery changing somebody’s diaper, Ev climbs into the crib with (or asks me to add in) her sister to bounce her and hug her and kiss her and entertain her by chasing the mobile. If we’re in Ev’s room, she wants the baby in her bed or her beanbag chair, within reach. If we’re downstairs, she wants to bowl her over on the floor and help her roll back and forth. If we’re in the kitchen, Ev wants to take photos together with the baby in the blue chair or tries to wedge herself into the already-occupied bouncer.

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Trying out the Christmas presents: Ev in her new playhouse with her doctor’s kit, gently administering to her favourite patient.

I love everything about them being sisters.  Even the bane of my days right now, Evanny’s Bam-Bam-like attack-mode, with which she flings herself at this defenseless baby with a weight I’m afraid will crush Tatha’s ribs, poking fingers that I fear will put her eyes out, head-butts that threaten to dent that little head: it’s love, “cute-aggression” (which, you can see there, is actually a thing), adoration, obsession.  She can’t get close enough to her, can’t touch her enough, can’t be close enough to crawling right inside her skin, and she tries by constantly battering herself against that skin, crying with her touch, “let me in, let me in!”  Evanny loves all babies, and wants to crush them at least a little, but she cannot possibly crush Tabitha often enough, and even when I’m scolding her for the naughty component–climbing over the back of the couch into the bassinet AGAIN after I’ve just told her not to (again), lying her full weight on the baby’s chest, poking too hard at her soft cheeks, chomping down when she gets those dainty, precise, precious little finger into her mouth–I love that that’s what she’s getting in trouble for.  It’s rarely hitting (the few times she’s done it have been experimental–she’s seeing where the limits are of both her touch and our tolerance), it’s not yet toy-taking and taunting, it’s not tantrums or food-flinging or any of the other terrible toddler habits we read about online; our toddler is in trouble for loving her sister too aggressively.  As sins go, I’ll take it.

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Side by side (in almost-matching puppy and kitty shirts, no less)

I love how Tabitha’s little face brightens–or just bursts into a corner-cheeked grin–when she sees Evanny, when Evanny smiles, when Evanny moves toward her, when–o joy of joys–Evanny jumps up and down.  I love how Tabitha has started to reach out whenever Ev is close enough to touch her hair, touch her face, touch her body.  At first, this was a one-sided practice, but in the past months and a half, it’s opened up, from Tatha’s first tentative hand-waving in Evvy’s direction to today’s deliberate hand-holding and/or hair-grabbing, twining her little fingers firmly into Evanny’s downy little wisps so that it’s Evanny yelling for “help!” from the other room instead of Tabitha crying for a rescue from under her sister’s crushing love-tackles.  I love how Evanny is sometimes just overcome, and in the middle of whatever else she was saying or doing, she’ll squeal at Tabitha “I love you so much!”  I know it’s not going to be all rainbows and unicorns together.  I know they’re going to be jealous of each other–beyond just the frustrated, wordless, yearning-face jealousies they take turns wearing, each when the other is in my arms these days.

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Sometimes it’s like this: the big one has wedged her way into the bassinet and stolen the little one’s water bottle (we can pretend the theft is what Tatha’s crying about, but it’s more likely the fact that Evanny is essentially sitting on her head)

I know they’re going to fight, they’re going to say hurtful things, they’re going to renounce each other, they’re going to be hateful, they’re going to push and shove and pull hair and break each others’ things on purpose and yell “I hate you” sometimes too, but I love knowing that this came first, that their togetherness began with this desperate and all-consuming adoration.  Daddy bought Evanny two “My Little Pony” figures for Christmas, to be friends with the one she already had, and this is how Evanny responded to opening a box with two toys inside: she pulled out one, looked at it, pulled out the second, considered it too, and then held it out to her baby sister.  “This one Tabby’s.”  “No, they’re both for you,” Matt said, trying to explain and pointing at another box.  “That present is for Tabby.  These are Evanny’s presents.”  She was unmoved; she handed the ponies to him to remove from their packaging, and when he gave both back to her, she brought the one she’d already designated as “Tabby’s” over to the baby in my lap and handed it to her. “This one for you.”  She’s since adopted them both herself, and probably doesn’t remember, already, that she gave one away, but she doesn’t fuss much when Tabitha chews on their hair, either.  That impulse to share, though; I love it so, so very much.

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Four-armed hug: pure bliss for both

When I think ruefully of how little play-money we’re going to have for them, or worry about the gymnastics lessons and Montessori classes they won’t get to take, and how many opportunities for childhood experiences my kids are going to have to miss, I’m still buoyed by the knowledge that these girls already have one huge boon more than I ever did, and already have what I wanted more than any of the wonderful things I had (sorry, Bubba–I’ve wised up to your awesomeness in later years, I promise): they have a sister.  They  have a source of shared memory to come back to (in retrospect, using our pool of such, Brek and I have retroactively realized that we actually had a pretty good time growing up together, even though we totally didn’t notice at the time).  They have a built-in best friend to come home to even if all the other best friends go away.  They have a heart that has always been theirs to love, since as long ago as they can remember (Evanny is probably already forgetting waiting for Tabitha’s birth, and certainly has forgotten life before the idea of her–when she says “I’m the baby” now, she’s playacting, and will usually say right after, “I’m Tabby” (or Darcy or Miles)).

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Sisterhood encapsulated at this point in their lives: Tatha is plucky in the face of attack, leaning away leery but still accepting, even enjoying the loving attention; Evanny is a gigantic blur of adoring ferocity who cannot keep her hands off her sister or obey, at all, the most common instruction in our house–“don’t squash your sister!”

The other night, Matt was sleeping off a head-cold down on the couch, leaving me upstairs with the girls, and Evanny had the poor timing to wake up and stagger in for a cuddle while I was already up and nursing Tabitha.  If she’d been ten minutes later, and Tatha already back in her cradle, or twenty minutes earlier, and asleep beside me herself before her sister woke up hungry, she could have stayed, but I knew she’d never be still and quiet long enough for me to get Tabitha back in bed if I let her stay.  I wiggled my way out from under the baby, who helpfully sucked her fingers for a minute and then fell provisionally back to sleep under the covers of the big bed, took Ev back to bed, stayed and patted her in the dark until she was still and quiet, breathing evenly, giving every impression of being sound asleep, and then went to the bathroom.  As I was heading back to my own bed, to see if I could shift Tatha asleep or if she’d want to pick up nursing again, I heard her talking, in her happy, quiet little non-syllabic whale-song way.  “Well,” I thought, “I guess she wants more nursing–but at least she’s cheerful about it instead of crying.”  And then I opened the door and saw who she was talking to: her sister, who had faked me out, snuck back into my room the minute I was behind the bathroom door, climbed up onto the bed, and awoken her just to enjoy her company.  “Evanny!  What in the world… oh, good grief, you two.  It’s four in the morning!  Come on.  Everybody back to bed.”

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Tabitha and Evanny, 5-and-a-half months and 28, respectively, posing for Mummy’s camera and managing to look a little impish and up-to-something all the while.

I wasn’t even annoyed; the charmed-ness gets in the way.  I can’t wait to be shooing them back to bed at 3 and 5, or 8 and 10, or 13 and 15–I can’t wait to see what they fight about, what they share, what they can use to make each other giggle uncontrollably, how they get each other into trouble, how they sneak each other out of it, what secret languages and codes they invent that they think I’m not hearing (or that they know that I can hear but have no hope of understanding).  I can’t wait to see what they’re going to look like (for now, Tabitha’s eyes are greyer, her skin darker, her hair lighter, her nose more upward-turning to Evanny’s blue, porcelain, fire-red, and down, but those are just stats for an ID card, not the real, emerging faces of two girls the whole world has yet to see), and how they’re going to look at each other, what they’re going to want to wear, and whether they’ll share clothes or hate each others’ aesthetic preferences.  I can’t wait to see how they draw each other, when they master paints and crayons, how they’ll draw me in pictures with them, how they’ll create together.  I can’t wait, and I can, I can, I’m so very thankful that I have to, that I get to, that there are hundreds, even thousands of days to go before these futures come to pass.  Because time only moves in one direction, and I don’t want to miss a second of this precious little sisterhood.

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