Do you remember me telling you the story of how Casey Dog's barking interrupted my lunch with your great grandfather, the man you are named after? Well, it interrupted the dream lunch, since he died long before you or I were born.
At about 2:00 AM, your father and I woke to the barking, rubbed our eyes, looked at each other, slipped out of bed and crept down the hallway, not saying a word. Casey kept taking steps forward, slowly, waiting for us to follow her, and we did, towards the rattling noise coming from the third floor. A trapped bird flying frantically through three small rooms (one soon to become yours) trying to escape, but there were no opened windows or chimney vents, nor holes in the attic. Its entrance a mystery. We freed it because that is what you do for trapped birds.
I kept remembering the poem The Raven by Edgar Alan Poe. Although the poem's theme is not about joy and love gained, the bird plays as a messenger from the afterworld, and at that moment, I thought of you. I knew that you were inside me, growing, which is why the first pregnancy test was done in the early hours of the morning.
When you were born, I was sure that the heavens had actually opened so that G-d could deliver you personally. Time seemed to stop. I didn't want to move from the first day of your life because nothing mattered after that, nothing was created, nothing died, to stay forever in that moment. Like a child, I believed that only your father, me and you existed, and that when the door closed to our happy home our guests, friends, neighbours simply disappeared.
Your father and I looked at your fragile little hands that we carefully navigated through sleep suits, your large chocolate eyes, and that fantastic smile. My finger went round and round the garden on your tummy and your little toes and soon you sang the song to me. Each day a new trick magically appeared you began to count, read, tell jokes, collect stones and create hairstyles, a proper little girl. We watched the angel grow her wings and we marvelled. Why would G-d have allowed us to be your parents when we really weren't worthy?
Soon my stomach grew again, and you barely noticed or cared because you were three, but the rest of the world did. Your father and I looked at each other excited but worried. We appreciated that we could never create another child like you. Who could capture us the way you had? So, we agreed to not compare.
Your sister, born in water, our little mermaid, cuddled her wet body into me, trying to gain warmth. As she does this morning under a soft blanket while we watch Sinbad. I dipped down into the bath and cried. Your father ran his finger gently down the side of her cheek and kissed my forehead. She was not like you; she was like her. All night I stayed awake, gazing at her. The first sleepless night of many. Only this night, I smiled.
You couldn't wait to hold her, and we have a picture of it somewhere. She looked at you and quieted and calmed. You made cooing noises, smiled and she squeezed your finger. Love born during an introduction. You couldn't get enough of her, so you would poke her when she slept, which she didn't mind as long as it was you she saw when her eyes opened. When I called you into the kitchen, you came with her in your arms (to my terror). You would sing to her and play peek-a-boo and when she grew her first bottom teeth she would show it to us in many smiles. You barely noticed your positioning being moved from centre of the universe. That came later.
She stopped being your favourite toy, sometime after her second birthday. You were pushed off to school and there she stayed at home, in my arms. You would come home and find remnants of crafts, puzzles, play dates and mummy sitting tired on the settee. You would pull at my sleeve and I would say, just let me finish my coffee, one more sip, but you would pull harder and harder until I said it louder and louder, which usually made you retreat to your dolls or your crafts. She would want to join and you would agree, as long as she knew the toys were yours.
It didn't seem to bother her to play second in your world. She loved you even though she no longer fit on your lap. She followed you as you slid down the stairs, listened to your cosmetic tips, watched you with friends (regardless if she was invited) and you enjoyed her as a toy. Her trusting eyes followed you everywhere, to the forbidden sweetie jar or outside the gate or into my make-up case and jewelry box. Each time I caught the two of you, I became cross, so in the future you just sent her, but I figured that one out too. You began to pinch, push, kick her but I saw and I became cross again, and she learned how to pinch, poke and push back, to your dismay.
However, as I put you in time out, in your room or just gave you a pointing, waving finger, your sister protested and you noticed. If there were treats, she wouldn't eat them unless you had some too, When she begged for a toy, she begged for you too. You realised soon that you never left the centre of her universe and I explained that she was and would always be your biggest fan. No matter if friends were "horrible," the universe scraped your knees, or the teacher "told you off", your sister would always step in the line of fire to protect you. Suddenly, her toothy grin made you smile again and you didn't mind her holding you like an overstuffed toy.
So, this morning, when she tries to tickle you relentlessly and you huff loudly or when she wants to match her nail polish colour to yours again, again and again. You roll your eyes, grunt, but put your fingers forward, saying, "there," because you know that it is a small price to pay for being loved so much by such a tiny thing.