November Daughters

Mythili

Freshly six, your latest
obsessions are your new Zhu Zhu
and the Tangled doll
with hair so long
I had to braid it on day one.
Just like when you were two,
you guard your possessions
as fiercely as a new mother,
holding them close to your chest
on all adventures, theirs and yours.
A year from now, what will you love most?
Will you have abandoned these items
for the latest movie character,
or have given in to your love of books,
your soon-to-be expert knowledge of words?
As I say whenever you ask me a question
that I’m not so sure of an answer to
(my response, in your eyes, a yes),
we’ll see.

Riona

With a long line,
a tiny half circle attached,
a diagonal drawn like a
ray of light across the page,
you have written the first
letter of your name. You ask
for more, and I feed them to you.
You swallow them up and
regurgitate the connected-dot i,
the perfect o, the upside-down n,
and the little a, a circle and tail.
And just as you are not quite sure
how to make the letters just right,
I am not quite sure how I am
going to stand here and watch you grow.

Isabella

Fifty-four pounds, almost half my weight,
you still ask me to carry you.
I reach around your skinny waist
and hoist you up, your arms
flailing wildly (impossible
for you to be still, even now)
as we move into your bedroom.
A kiss good night, a button on the iPod,
and you will listen to the same song tonight,
on repeat, that has played for six months.
I imagine your wedding day,
your groom picking you up in a dance.
Will you play this song, remember its waltz?
Or will I be the only one singing,
“Cantaremos alto, cantaremos bajo,”
until my heart can go neither high nor low,
but stay as neutral as your weight in my arms allows.

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August Daughters

Riona

there was a time not so long ago
when I worried you wouldn’t walk
contented as could be you sat happily
on your bottom, legs refusing to straighten

adorable, yes, but not for a mother.
how I ached for people to stop asking
for you to reach up, put your palms on a chair,
and stand.

you are four now. Four! and have tucked
stairs, one at a time, into your steps of experience,
have learned to chase after your sisters,
rarely even begging to hold my hand to steady you.

it wasn’t a mistake that I asked my friend to
draw, in perfect artistic beauty, your favorite pets
on a pair of (my all-time favorite shoes)
Converse Chuck Taylors for your birthday. Shoes.

for my youngest girl who is perfectly happy to dig in
to the hand-me-down box and pull out a “new” pair.
But no. Those shoes are yours, only yours, and on the
same day you put their magic on your feet,

your bottom in your brand-new non-baby swing,
digging your toes into the grass to make a dirt hole
(“just like under my sisters’ swings”)
you learned how to pump. all. by. yourself.

i will never know, Riona, I will never know
what will bring more tears to this mother’s eyes:
your first step at twenty months
or your legs in the air at four years old.

Isabella

Grandma reads a book to your sisters
(you hate reading).
you sit on the couch,
swing your legs,
jump up, jump down,
grab blocks,
knock them over,
dash into the kitchen,
pick up a set of toys,
jolt over the coffee table,
sing a song.

Grandma asks your sisters
to answer a question
about the book.
Before a split second has passed,
you’ve already slipped in
the answer.
“How can these girls say anything
with this one around?”

“It’s true,” you admit.
“I know everything.”
You pick up a set of plastic bugs
and bolt away,
my speed demon of elder knowledge.

Mythili

you are so proud to be
the five-almost-six-year-old
who takes steps into the school
every day after your sister,
backpack on back,
lunch in hand,
ready for kindergarten.

i watch your smile
as you tell stories about
the block towers you’ve built,
as you “read” every detail
of pictures in elaborate tales
much better than the actual words
written in the books you love.

all i see,
beneath the layers of
worldly knowledge you have
acquired upon entering school,
is my baby girl with
her baby teeth still on top.

until they loosen,
fall into an apple or Daddy’s palm,
wait in a pillow for the Tooth Fairy,
i will hold on to this smile of yours.
it is yours, yes,
but it is mine, too.

Warriors

don’t go off the sidewalk
we warn as they abandon
their ice cream remnants
and dash to their brief
moment of freedom.

fearless leader number one
follows the handicap ramp
to its very edge, dangles
her arm like a proud warrior
over the parking lot,
two mini warriors behind,
waiting, watching, weaning
themselves into a new era
of independence.

All I Have Lost

amidst the chaos
of this day
(or any other)
i have missed a milestone
that even with pictures
i will never
be able to replicate

it is not the first
(nor the last).
it tears at
my heartstrings,
a reminder of
all i have lost
with everything
i have won.

i wait for the day
when what i’ve won
will fill the void
(the interminable
guilt-ridden void)
that encompasses
all i have lost.

May Daughters

Mythili

With pride, you grin to show
your mouth with its bloody hole
(your first lost tooth),
palming the remnant of an apple
that you tuck behind your back
like a puppy hiding her tail

“That’s great. Where’s the tooth?”
Bewilderment clouds your smile.
“I swallowed it.”
“That’s too bad,” I try empathy,
but it has broken through your doubt,
and giant droplets of loss
form at the corners of your eyes.

We make a mad-dashed search for Blankey,
and soon you are in my lap,
cuddling your tears away
as if you were still my toddler,
not the soon-to-be-kindergartener
who has just reached another milestone.

Isabella

One evening of defiance
(its pursuing punishment causing
a head-thrusting tantrum into your pillow)
has led us to the deal we make today:
show me you can behave
and I will grant your wish.

Bribery is the secret that every parent keeps,
and you are mostly silent in the trailer
of our long bike ride,
asking only three questions
along the 41-mile route:
“Are we lost?”
“Are we almost there?”
“Can we stop at the playground?”

You follow along the Girl Scout activities,
budding in line and asking questions,
only twice intertwining your hand with your friend’s
to identify shapes in clouds, to dance,
and when the long day comes to and end,
I pull you into my arms,
whisper what you want to hear,
in three words forgiving us both.

Riona

Though the time is short,
you insist on helping make dinner rolls.
You and Mythili fight over
stirring the flour,
patting the dough,
and who gets to sit on the counter.

I’m as flustered as a
bird with broken wings,
hopping about around you
and trying to get the job done.

“I wish we had a kitchen with an island
so you girls could be on the other side.”
Your response is so simple.
“I wish we had a ping pong room in the
basement, but first we need a bigger basement.”

And just like that,
I have forgotten about my broken wings,
my flustered flurry.
I hand you the dough
that you round into a ball too small
and smile, my frenzy tucked
quietly behind me.