Sometimes I think your mom should have named you Joy.
Don’t get me wrong. You have a perfectly wonderful name, one I love to sing to you, one that fits you perfectly as the lovely flower you are. But it’s hard to look back at the past year and not see the joy you have brought to everyone.
It’s a joy that reverberates throughout the house, growing stronger as it passes from baby to mother to sister to aunt to grandmother until our home nearly sings with it. I walk into our front door and I can feel it, an electricity, a palpable thrum of pure, unmitigated joy. You brought that, with every giggle and grin and every discovery of the little person you are becoming.
In this first year, we’ve discovered you have a love of music and a gift for dance, with 70s disco classics, especially “Boogie Shoes” ranking among your favorites. Your finger-snapping, booty-shaking moves are already legendary, and it doesn’t take a great leap to imagine you as a young woman, confidently carving up the dance floor.
You learned to walk all at once it seems, content to be carried around, until you weren’t; and now nothing stands in your way, not even the tall steps leading to the second floor, nor the dark ones leading to the attic. We’ve rediscovered the joy of child-proofing and the impromptu use of furniture as gates, though for now we’re content to simply follow you as you roam, for it’s a joy just to watch you toddle from one part of the house to the next, compelled by your curiosity to pick things up, until something new catches your eye and pulls you evermore towards new discoveries.
You’ve learned the skill of opening doors, and I pity the person who tries to tell you the way is blocked, because I don’t think there will be anyone who can stop you if you decide that this is your path. I feel like the word “Glass Ceiling” will never be in your vernacular.
You’re a mimic, really since early on when you began to return our clucks and coos with clucks and coos of your own. Your elephant call is a dead ringer for your Mom-Mom’s, and we simply need to say “Knock” and you’re looking for a flat surface to pound your fist on. You’re not talking yet – at least not in English – but you’ve definitely got a language of your own, and you’re content to converse in it, confident that whatever you have to say is being understood; and it is, because we know immediately when you’re happy, or agitated, or delighted with every whoop and babble.
We’ve found you have a temper. With that German/Irish/Italian heritage, it would be a bigger surprise if you didn’t. But it doesn’t seem to last long. Like your mom, your fits of pique are like summer squalls: Loud, dramatic, and mercifully short. Still, I don’t envy your mom when it comes time to telling you no (something that’s going to happen more and more over the next year). I have a feeling we’re going to see some epic thunderstorms in the Knipp household.
Our greatest discovery isn’t your power to storm, but your power to bring people together. Inter-sister warfare has almost ceased entirely, and any flies on our walls will tell you that’s akin to restarting the Middle East peace talks. Suddenly, those petty differences about clothes and chores aren’t so important, and the only fights now seem to center on whose turn it is to hold you. The girls have never been happier, and it’s because of you!
And we can’t forget your power to heal, everything from old heartaches to age. You’ve inspired GG Butler to sing, and Nonna Chatham to find new and creative names for “Great-Grandmother.” Both your Great-Grandpops have had health battles, but one look at you, one chance to bounce you on their knee and they’re both 20 years younger, remembering the days when they bounced your mom and your aunts (or maybe even further back when it was me and your MomMom) the same way. And finally, there’s your Great-Grandmom Knipp, who lost her long battle with illness last year, but I firmly believe you brought her peace and happiness during her last months on earth. Like you were meant to come along when you did, to provide that comfort.
So little KnippKnopp, we’re going to celebrate your first birthday with cake and songs and gifts. But nothing you receive, no matter how outlandish, can ever compare to the gift you’ve given to all of us: That gift of joy.