And now you are four. Four is fun. Four is mischevious grins and knowing pranks. Four is laughter. And four is you peeking over my shoulder as I type these words asking me about the pictures on this screen remembering these memories with me. Four is me realizing how much closer we’re inching into the realm in which you will read these letters I’ve written you filled with the memories of your childhood, the ones I will never forget.
Four is books. You come from a long line of book lovers and you’ve always loved them, but this year was the year of falling in love. You can’t read yet, but you can’t get enough of books. Sprawled on a sofa, criss-crossed on the hardwoods, or my favorite, snuggled next to me as you drink a glass of milk and get ready for bed. You stuff books into your caterpillar library bag. You tuck them into your backpack for outings. And your little brother watches you, quick to learn from his wise older brother the transportive beauty of a beautiful book.
Four is questions. Four is curiosity. Four is creativity and imagination running rampant. A diaper box becomes a raft to charter stormy seas.
Sidewalk chalk makes petals, flowers, and lavish wonderworlds on gray concrete. Houses evolve from cardboard boxes and complex stories created from folding chairs while I glimpse my own childhood in your effervescent now.
Four was polar vortex. Cold so brittle the city shut down. Quite literally. Not that you knew. You tasted snow flakes, traced letters in the snow and staved off cabin fever by bouncing in the basement.
Four was your first soccer games.
Four was friendships. Swinging side-by-side and hiking around trails. It can be wonderful to have enough friends to crowd a house, but I hope for you good friends, dear friends, three in the morning bounce out of bed because you need them friends, because while it’s important to have all levels of friendships, it is deep and lasting friendships I pray most for you.
But you have one built-in friend. Your little brother. You chase each other. You build blocks and topple them. And you argue and love each other fiercely. You are his big brother and you take the matter of protecting him seriously. If he misbehaves you ask us to let it go, the words Musa baby! a common repeated phrase in this house. I love watching this love.
Four is also HOTEL. You love hotels. Sure you enjoy the sights and the eats but I’ve learned hotel isn’t a euphemism for vacation. Your love for hotels is truly about the hotel. On a sandy beach or walking around historic Charleston, you turn to a pink stucco house or a towering brick fort and then to us asking can we go back to hotel?
You also love weddings, Shaadi. This year was the first shaadi you remembered clearly, and you decided this was fun. You’ve decided you want to get married. We’re still working out the logistics but we know it will be on a Thursday. And Zaxby’s is in the running to cater it.
Four is also Sunday chai with your parents [i.e. warm milk steeped with cinnamon].
Four is cars. You’ve always loved them but this year you’ve taken the love to the scientific level. You read about cars. You examine them. You collect toy cars. One day at a car dealership you shrieked with joy at a tiny little car you figured would be perfect for tiny little you, but not yet kiddo- soon enough, probably way too soon.
Four was fast. Flying faster than I’d like. And on the tip of your fourth birthday we drove to Florida to meet your new baby cousin joining the ranks of your beloved older cousins who you treasure deeply, and then off we went to your Mamu’s graduation and watched him walk across the stage.
And we celebrated his graduation. And we celebrated your birthday. We celebrated you. Because you’re here. You’re four. And you’re not just mine, you belong to so many of us. You mean so many things to so many people. You are loved. And I can never say it enough times, love is the most powerful and most important things there is. Love is the meaning of life itself.
You blew out your candles. You laughed and ate cake. You opened presents and I thanked God for another year of knowing you and another year to watch you grow up. May you always and forever be guided and protected. May I always strive to be the best mother I can be. The mother you deserve. Ameen.