It is Little Miss Ava’s first birthday! What an exciting milestone, and what a year we’ve had. She is, by miles and miles, the best decision we ever made. Throughout the last several days, I’ve found myself thinking about what I was doing exactly one year ago. I did not know of the immense love and connection that we, as common ol’ people, were capable of feeling. I did not know how primal the instincts I would experience would actually be. I didn’t even know that we were going to have a daughter!
I am so grateful for this blog and the support of the FarmGirl community–you have all added something special to both her life and mine, and I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for joining us in this journey of mother/daughterhood. On some of the tough days I have been lifted by your encouragement, praise, love, advice and wi-hugs (e-hugs?). On the great days, I’m happy to know that this path has been trodden by many a FarmGirl sister before me and the feelings and experiences are nearly universal. There would be something not quite right if the unexplainable joy of motherhood wasn’t experienced by others, as well.
Growing up, January was a fairly dull month. All of the excitement of the holidays seemed to crash and burn with the end of winter break. There were very few birthdays. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while one of the most important dates on our calendar, wasn’t exactly something we eagerly anticipated. When my brother died in January, it became a month that I resented and wanted to avoid. Even this last week a very talented, kind, generous and popular former classmate of mine died in a mountaineering accident–bringing up some old emotions.
However, over the past decade, I’ve come to meet some of my most loved people in the world who happen to have birthdays in January–My Stepmom, my Father-in-Love (because Evan and I aren’t legally married, get it?), our sweet daughter, Ava, and most recently our newest nephew, Ellis.
January has become a complicated month–one that reminds me on a day-to-day basis of the beautiful, yet painful, cycle of life and death. This is fitting for the month, I’d say. As the inaugural month for a whole new year, there are the inevitable metaphors relating to turning new leaves and starting with a clean slate. However, it is also arguably and historically the coldest, least life supportive month of the year. Isn’t that how it is, though? Life and death, holding hands forever, kissing each other hello and goodbye, dancing along the poetic lines of impermanence. It is all beautiful, in its own way.
Ava knows none of this in her 356 days of existence, or at least whatever she does know of it isn’t complicated by attachment and critical thinking. She has many, many more trips around the sun to complete before the heady stuff matters. January is her birthday month, and we just finished her first after a year of many firsts. First smile, first tooth, first time visiting the ocean, first crab, first steps, first time saying “mama,” first Christmas, first time gardening, first stretch sleeping more than six hours (I would like more of these, please!), first big green booger!, first time peeing on the rug!, first pulling the dog’s hair, and first snowsuit. All of the firsts are precious to a parent, and I can’t wait for many more firsts in the coming months and years.
We had a little birthday party for Ava over the weekend. We served some of her favorite foods–chips and hummus, fruits, veggies, crab dip, yummy sausages and cheeses and of course her first cake! Have you heard of smash cakes? They are kind of new in the world of kids’ parties, I think. A smash cake is a small cake that is wholly devoted to whatever the little birthday boy or girl wants to do with it. It’s usually some form of smashing or destroying. Ava was very tentative with her cake. I made an owl cake with brightly colored butter cream frosting. We used some pretzels as the “branch” that the owl was perched on. Ava took the pretzels and nibbled on them a bit while suspiciously eyeing the sugar feast in front of her. She carefully poked the frosting over and over, eventually getting to the actual cake and eating some of it. I think she preferred the pretzels!
In lieu of presents, we had party attendees write down stories, poems, or advice or draw a picture for her baby book. They all turned out very nice and they will serve to remind Ava of the many people who love her dearly. One of my friends did bring a bottle of nice tequila for me! It’s easy to forget that a child’s birthday also commemorates the birth of mother and a father, so it was nice to have that reminder in something that I cannot share with Ava.
Oh, my sweet little toddling daughter! I hope you read this some day and know how much we adore you. You have awesome dance moves, your laugh could make the toughest meanie join in, your curiosity is top notch and you are loved by scores of people young and old. I promise to encourage you to be the best you that you can be, I promise to love you unconditionally, and I promise to bake you your favorite birthday cake year after year (even if it is–gasp!–chocolate-less). You are the BEST thing.
Happy first birthday, little one.
Sending you all peace and love from Alaska,
Alex, The Rural Farmgirl