Scrolling through videos on my phone I find one from when Charlotte is not even 6 months old. She’s in a blue and white dress being propped up by the back of the recliner. I see my hands for a moment holding a piece of paper and then rip! As the paper tears in half, Charlotte laughs hysterically. I keep ripping the paper in half, making it smaller and smaller, and her laughter continues. I watch her eyes never leave the paper and her tongue move in and out of her mouth with sounds of laughter.
There’s another video of Charlotte as a toddler crawling all over Lars, her dog. He’s laying on the floor seemingly oblivious to Charlotte’s hands all over him or her feet dangling over his tail. She gets on the floor and looks at Lars eye to eye. She doesn’t have any words yet, but as I turn up the sound, I hear her laughter.
A few months before her 2nd birthday, Charlotte’s at the fair in our town watching the parade. A marching band plays in the background while Charlotte bounces up and down, arms waving like a conductor, and her laughter floating through the air. She turns around every once in a while to make sure we’re still watching and she smiles. She tips her head back and keeps laughing to the beat of the marching band.
One day during preschool this year the students spent the day playing with balloons. The teachers share pictures of the class on FB with kids rubbing the balloons on their heads to see the static electricity, painting with the balloons, tossing them in the air, and racing down the hall. In the still screen of the video I see Charlotte’s smile and her hands in the air. I click play to watch the video and the first sound I hear is Charlotte’s laughter. The video doesn’t show the kids racing with the balloons, this video shows the cheerleaders. And the sound that I hear the loudest - Charlotte’s laughter.
Today Charlotte’s laughter mixes with words. She’s learning to talk and along with laughter she now has words to proclaim her joy. She keeps inviting others into her joy wherever she goes.
Passing hay bales and cows we wind our way through country roads into town and Charlotte’s preschool class. “Look, mama, look cows,” Isaac tells me.
“I see cows out my window, too,” says Charlotte. Black and white, brown, and spotted cows pass us all through the windows. Peering back at them both through the rear-view mirror I see Isaac pointing at more cows while Charlotte gazes out her window. “I miss my blue sky,” Charlotte sighs and loses her smile. “Raining today?”
“No, no rain today, just cloudy,” I reassure her.
“Blue sky come out tomorrow,” Charlotte now declares. With her words, her smile returns and she continues pointing out cows.
From the dining room table I hear the clack of trains and cars on the train track. For a few moments both Charlotte and Isaac play independently with no stealing of toys or screaming. “Train goes over the train track,” Isaac tells Charlotte while she lines up the trains and pushes them up and over and around the table.
Picking up a train for each hand and one underneath her arms, she walks to the couch, “Follow me, Isaac, let’s make a maze.”
“Okay!” Isaac yells and follows.
I watch as the two of them line their trains up on the couch and with no words, almost as if they have their own understanding, they pass different trains between each other. That is until Charlotte looks out the window. “Mama!! Blue sky out!” Charlotte yells and turns around with her huge smile taking up her entire face.
I can’t help but smile back at her while Isaac now jumps on the couch to peer out the window too. The two of them reveling in a blue sky.
“It is a blue sky. What a pretty day.” I say to them more as a reminder to myself.
Charlotte does that - she sees things that are seemingly ordinary and every day - but that I fail to notice: a blue sky, a squirrel climbing up a tree, our friend’s car driving down the street. With every thing she notices, Charlotte cheers in delight.
Isaac recently found a rabbit stuffed animal piled underneath his toys. Everytime you press the foot the rabbit sings, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” Both kids hold the rabbit tight and smile while he sings to them. They keep pressing the button and eventually join him in song. Charlotte joins in on the words she can say and mumbles through the rest. I hear her sing-song voice as she rocks back and forth:
my only sunshine
I love you
Happy birthday, dear girl! My baby girl turning 5. My sunshine who makes me happy, who reminds me forever and ever that blue skies will always be coming. Whose laughter always brings me sunshine.
Keep laughing, keep smiling.
Always remember that you are loved.