In 12 hours she will be six years old. No longer a baby or a toddler, she is turning the corner from little girl to not little and not big.
In 12 hours she will have lived half her life with him. And half without.
This year will bring the same milestone when my son turns eight. It marks what would have been our tenth wedding anniversary, and the year that I became older than he will ever be. They are bittersweet milestones, distant markers that I have been sharply aware of even as they have softened with the passing of time. The first milestones cut deeply and the second were unpredictable, marked by hidden tears, eruptions of anger or numbing ambivalence. But it is these milestones that have loomed largest on the horizon – they are the point at which the hourglass is equal in measure to the life we lived with him and the life yet to be lived.
I have never said the words out loud to them, and yet I know they are not unaware. She reminds me often that she had just turned three and that she is now six, and that three plus three is six. Or that six minus three is three. More often it is the addition and not the loss – three plus three rather than six minus three – she notes, a subtlety that underscores the progress of time. Progress that we have all made and pages we have turned on our own and together. Watching her eyes dance as she asks what it was like when she was born and what she did and what we said, I realize that celebrating this birthday is as much about celebrating another year’s growth as it is celebrating how far we have come.
Pushing the soft waves from her forehead, I am reminded of the first night we kissed her tiny brow. The last night that he kissed it. And all the nights since. This little girl, as tempestuous as she is gentle, has shown us all how to embrace loss, to defy it and to rise above it. She has taught us all that it isn’t the passing of time that matters.
It’s how that time is passed.