Motherhood & Words

It’s my little Zoë’s birthday today. How can she already be two years old?

I remember the day she was born, the thick wet snowflakes falling outside as I tried not to think about being sliced open. I remember the terrible cold I had that day (as I do now). I remember that Donny took Stella out for breakfast so I could try to sleep a little more. I remember that I didn’t sleep. I remember the moment the doctor pulled her from me and held her up for me to touch. I remember, later, in the recovering room, when Donny placed her in my arms and she latched on immediately, gazing up at me.

This morning, she woke at four a.m. after Stella barreled out of their room riding the tails of a nightmare. Both girls were then in our bed, but that doesn’t work for Zoë. She was up and down, saying, “Downtairs. Downtairs now.”

At 5:15, I kicked D in the shin and he took both girls downstairs for breakfast. “Don’t open the present without me, though,” I called after them.

Yesterday, Stella and I had gone to pick out a doll for Zoë. Stella has the Target version of an American Girl Doll, one she calls Charmy Running Girl. (I don’t remember what her box name was.) And because Charmy is Stella’s doll, Zoë can’t get enough of her. “Runny Gool. Where Runny Gool?”

It was Stella’s idea to get Zoë a doll of her own. She thought this would keep Zoë from pulling Charmy’s hair and dropping her on her head. She thought if Zoë had a doll of her own, she’d back off poor Charmy.

When I got up at 6:30, we all sat on the floor as Zoë opened her present. She was ecstatic. “My Charmy Runny Gool! My Charmy Runny Gool!”

Stella pursed her lips, holding dear Charmy in her arms. “Zoë, you can’t name her that. They’re cousins so she needs a different name.”

Zoë eventually settled on Sofia. (Named after my friend’s baby.) But Sofia turned into Charmy Sofia and then Sofia Running Girl. And after twelve minutes, Sofia lay abandoned on the floor, and Zoë was weeping to hold Charmy, the real Charmy, as I was trying to finish packing lunches and get both girls—the live ones—ready for school. Ah well.

This afternoon, Stella and I will take cupcakes to share with Zoë’s toddler friends. And tomorrow we’ll have a party with our families.

Today, I am thankful for my Zoë, thankful for the way she says, “’Kay, Mama? ‘Kay?” I’m thankful for her devilish laugh, for the way she lines the baby dolls up on the couch, covering each one with a tiny blanket. I’m thankful for the way she says, “Tay too yo welcome” when I pass her a bowl of orange slices. I’m thankful for her red hair, which is a mat of dreadlocks at the back of her head because she will not let me brush it. (And I just let it be. I let her go to school like this.)

I’m even thankful for her gremlin ways—the way her teeth grit in a crazed smile when she’s about to pinch me or when her “gentle touches” become a lot less gentle or when she has grabbed my favorite mug from the dishwasher and run into the other room, poised to smash it to pieces. Okay, it was a little hard to love her the moment the mug exploded into a gazillon ceramic shards on the floor. But then I was over it.

And I do love every bit of you, Zoë! Happy day!

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Elizabeth on March 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    What a lovely birthday post! Happy Birthday to little Zoe and to her wonderful mother as well!

  2. kristenspina on March 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Happy birthday, to both of you!!

  3. Leightongirl on March 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Happy birthday little Z!

  4. Lisa on March 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Awww, happy birthday to your sweet little girl!

  5. gillian on March 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Happy Birhday sweet girl! Congratulations Mama!

  6. Melissa on March 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Two! How is that even possible? Happy birthday to Zoe!

  7. Cecilia on March 5, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Yes, happy birthday to both of you! May Zoe have a fabulous year ahead as a terrific two! (My son is a March baby too, 6 days' difference!) Cecilia

  8. Andria on March 6, 2010 at 3:01 am

    Happy birthday darling Zoe!!!

  9. Mary on March 8, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Happy (belated) Birthday Zoe! She's such a wonderfully spirited kiddo!!

  10. cath c on March 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

    i'm a little late, but happy birthday to zoe!

    lovely and very real post as i look forward to my toots's 2nd bday on april 1.

  11. cath c on March 8, 2010 at 11:12 am

    my apologies, i seem to have glitchingly multiposted the same comment

  12. unfinishedportraitofsam on March 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    she sounds a lot like my niece, Charli. which means she must be crazily wonderful 🙂 happy birthday to her!