To my little Annie

by Mr. Sheehy

My Little Annie:

Your hair is getting longer. Your hair has always been cute, especially during the Spike Stage, where the entire middle section stood on end as if we’d rubbed a balloon across your top and suspended it a few inches above you, for six months. Your mother enjoyed taking pictures of you with the light slightly behind, creating Annie of the Golden Fire on Her Head.

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I was surprised at how long it lasted; we enjoyed it so much, it seemed destined to mat down. But now, at last, it has begun to falter under the weight, and though you grow faster than your sister seemed to grow (as evidenced by how quickly you’ve moved through the clothing – we expect you two to be wearing the same wardrobe by June), your resting hair makes you shorter. But I’m not complaining, because today when I got you up from your nap, your hair curled above your left ear away from your head. It was so cute I mentioned it to Ellen: “Look Ellen, Annie’s hair is getting longer – it’s coming over her ears.”

“Your hair is getting longer, Annie!” she screamed in your face, reaching for your hands to clench you tightly. I have always cringed when she grabs your hands like this; since you were tiny, it’s been her favorite way to begin hugging you, and despite my nervousness, you have never seemed to mind it. Lately I’ve finally started settling down about this. For one thing, since your bones made it this long, you’ll surely be fine. But also, I’ve seen how strong you are, and if I need to be worried for someone, it should probably be for Ellen. She’ll lean in to say hello to you, or we’ll zoom you in close to her to give her a kiss (your adorable nine month old baby version – an open mouthed slop of wet applied to whatever body part it lands on), and you’ll grab a clump of hair so tightly that when we pull you away, we’ll have to untangle strays from your fingers. And I don’t label Ellen a crybaby for whimpering over this, because it hurts; you’ve done it to me too.

As you age, folks wonder how you’re different from Ellen, a question I suppose they’ll ask for the rest of your life. If I answer quickly, the differences flow. You seem so calm and easily pleased, and Ellen is so talkative and passionately involved in everything. Tonight we had pancakes for dinner, which means that I ate at the breakfast bar and Ellen’s highchair was in the kitchen: she needed to watch Mommy flip the pancakes. Where were you? Rolling around on the floor for 30 minutes, grabbing at whatever toy you could most easily reach, experiencing frustration only when you wormed beneath the support bars at the base of the highchair and discovered you were pinned. Eventually you tired of the rolling and cried for attention, but not until I’d finished five or six pancakes (yes, I eat pancakes like a ranch-hand: Mommy’s secret recipe).

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But I worry as we highlight the differences, because in contrasting, we pit the two of you as foils, potentially making the virtue of one a vice or deficiency in the other. Oh, the delicate balancing that is life! We don’t want you to be your sister, and we don’t want your sister to be you. I love that this morning, when I had you and Ellen and Mommy was in the shower, you were able to play on the floor by yourself, rolling from the plastic zebra to the square ring to the stuffed ball, smiling at me and Ellen as I fed her granola and read her cowboy books from the library. Your patience changed the morning – Ellen was still feeling sick and particularly needy, and you were able to content yourself easily as long as we stayed in the room with you, making faces and playing an occasional game of peek-a-boo. Your patience enabled me to enjoy the sweetness of you both – a treat I savor almost every day. I suppose your patience rises out of necessity, but I don’t admire it less for that. Even at nine months, you have discovered that life is better for you when you are calm and patient than it would be if you insisted on the unattainable. Through the coming years, may you teach me what you have learned.

When you were born, I was excited not only for me and for your mom, but for you and for Ellen, because I knew that in getting a sister, you had been given something we could never provide for you. And though you are only nine months old, I have begun to realize how right that feeling was. I have made you laugh – my favorite method is to pin you on the ground and tickle your sides after zooming my face in close to yours – but I have never set your belly rumbling with laughter the way Ellen so easily does. When it comes to Ellen, you erupt whether she is yelling at you through a colander, leaning over the side of her high chair and yelling, “Boo!”, or simply putting on pink sunglasses. She’s your sister, that person with the magic connection, and though I think your grabbing her hair may suggest the bitterness you harbor for all the times it’s drooped into and tickled your face when you didn’t want it there, you’ve already fastened to her in a manner that will never be precisely duplicated.

And I get to be the daddy. What a blessing.