Turn! Turn! Turn!

To everything
(Turn, turn, turn)
There is a season
(Turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose
Under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

From “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” by Pete Seeger
Adapted from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Sometimes you know when things will happen. Fall arrived at 5:51 a.m. this morning, as expected. Even though it’s been warm for late September, the humidity is largely gone and there’s a chill in the air in the mornings when I go out to collect the newspaper. The red berries have appeared on our dogwood tree; its leaves are tinged with scarlet and some have even fallen. We’re at a moment of balance between the light and the dark (that blessed time of year when you can still get good corn and tomatoes at the farmers’ market and sweet, crisp apples and pears are for sale as well), but the tipping point is here. Each time we go to the Y to swim at the outdoor pool, I wonder a little sadly if it will be the last time this year. Yet at the same time I look forward to seeing the leaves turn and the snowfall through June’s eyes, this first year she’s likely to notice such things.

June’s half birthday falls on the equinox this year. Like the seasons, she’s halfway between one thing and the next. Starting tomorrow, she will be closer to two than one. Some parts of this transition are hard. She still wants her morning nap and gets very cranky without it. So by way of compromise I take her for a ride in the stroller or Beth drives her somewhere to induce a short nap that will carry her to her afternoon nap. That’s the theory anyway. In practice, the abbreviated morning nap is sometimes still too long or comes too late and interferes with the afternoon nap, returning us to our original problem. I’m going to give it at least another week to work itself out before giving up and switching tactics.

Other steps she’s taking on her journey from baby to little girl seem almost magically effortless. June is currently experiencing what the developmental psychologists call a “word explosion.” That’s just what it seems like, too. Words are just bubbling to the surface and exploding out of her. Noah says if she were a character on Super Why, her superpower would be “the power to talk.” She knows more than eighty words and adds new ones daily. She’s eager to learn more and often points to an object whose name she doesn’t know and demands, “Say!” Sometimes when she improves her pronunciation of a word (for instance when she said “yummy” for the first time instead of “nummy” which is how she usually says it), she beams and looks to me or to Beth for approval. She lets us know now when she needs a diaper change by announcing “Boopy.” (We are hoping this means she will show more of an interest in toilet training than her brother did.)

Her utterances are getting longer and more complex as well as more numerous. Her first four-word sentence was “No way! No seat!” meaning “If you think I’m getting in that car seat you have another thing coming.” One recent morning she saw a school bus out the window and said, “Bus. Noah back.” And not only does she use words to communicate with us and to keep up little running commentaries for her own amusement, she also made her toys talk to each other for the first time today. I watched her sitting on the couch with a foam rubber dinosaur in each hand. She held them so they faced each other.

“Go,” one dinosaur said.

“Shoes,” the other suggested.

“Thank you,” the first dinosaur replied.

“Thank you,” the second dinosaur returned.

And so on and so on.

She’s physically more agile as well. At the playground she tries to climb on equipment designed for much older and bigger kids. About a month ago she learned to climb the ladder to Noah’s top bunk. We had to take it down for her safety as well as the safety of the toys Noah wants to stash in a June-free zone. He’s adjusted by learning to climb up the back of the bunks. Every now and then, though, we put the ladder back and let her climb (under close maternal supervision). It gives her such joy. This afternoon as an impromptu half-birthday present I dug Noah’s old push bike out from the basement and gave it to June. I had Noah demonstrate how to sit on it and push it along with his feet. She was eager to try, but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it. She ended up alternately sitting on the seat and bouncing up and down and walking alongside it, pulling it by the handlebars. I tried to remember how we taught Noah to ride it, then I remembered he was already in daycare when he got it for Christmas at the age of almost twenty months and that he’d been riding a similar one there, so we didn’t have to teach him. I guess she will figure it out on her own. I doubt it will take long.

She’s also “prettier every day.” I know because our neighbor told me. (I am a little sad to see the red fading from her hair as she gets blonder, but her curls are more than adequate compensation. At the risk of sounding shallow, I admit I wanted curly-haired children. My own wavy golden-brown hair is my only physical vanity, even if I usually wear it back.)

Tonight, after an equinox supper of pesto burgers, corn on the cob and apple cider, we had cupcakes with orange and brown frosting and yellow sprinkles to celebrate June’s half birthday. “Nummy cake,” she commented appreciatively. Then she pointed to something on the table and began to grunt excitedly.

“What do you want, June?” I asked.

“I want…I want…” she said and trailed off, the word eluding her.

Beth and I stared at each other. “Did you hear that? She just said ‘I want’” Beth said. I nodded silently. Both words were firsts. It was an almost solemn thrill to hear her first “I,” marred only slightly by the fact that we never did figure out what she wanted.

Of course any toddler worth her salt needs to know how to throw a proper tantrum. June’s working on that, too. As Noah got ready for bed and Beth gathered up the week’s recycling and I tried to wash a pomegranate juice stain out of her light gray onesie, June expressed her displeasure that no-one was paying attention to her at that precise moment by hurling herself onto the floor in a high traffic area (between the living and dining rooms) and screaming. She doesn’t have the kicking part down yet but I’m sure she’ll get there. It’s part of what comes between one and two.

Not all change can be so easily predicted, however. This week Beth and I were deeply saddened and angered by the decision of the Maryland Supreme Court that the denial of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples is constitutional (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/18/AR2007091802177.html & http://equalitymaryland.org/). The decision was longer in coming than expected. At one point Beth and I were daring to hope we might be married on our twentieth anniversary in July, and even after that day passed with no decision handed down, we still hoped, almost never speaking of it to each other, so as not to jinx anything. After the decision, Beth confided in me that she’d been wondering where to go for our honeymoon. I admitted I’d been wondering if we should buy Noah his first suit for the wedding. I’d also been mulling over whether he could be trusted with gold jewelry and if June could possibly follow directions well enough to strew flower petals at our feet in front of the judge. But now, something we were allowing ourselves to think of as at least potentially happening in weeks or months is again years (or decades) off. I think history is on our side, but when you look at history it’s easy to pinpoint an event as being at the beginning, middle or end of a social movement. When you are living in history, it’s harder to tell. It took American women seventy-two years to get the vote, counting from the first women’s rights convention, held in 1848 in Seneca, New York (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/naw/nawstime.html). If we take the Stonewall Riots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots) as the birth of the modern gay rights movement and it takes much longer than that, Beth and I might be shuffling down the aisle in our walkers. She’s worth the wait, but it would be easier if I knew how long the wait would be.

Sometimes, though, change takes you by surprise, like the four purple crocuses that bloom every September in our front yard. When we moved here our old landlady was re-landscaping and gave us a bunch of bulbs she’d dug up to take to our new house. We planted them in spring, the wrong time of year for planting bulbs. Some of them, like the hyacinth and the tiger lilies, got themselves straightened out and bloom when the neighbors’ hyacinth and tiger lilies do. Other mystery bulbs never recovered from the shock and put forth only greenery and no flowers every year. (Or maybe they are greenery-only bulbs. Is there such a thing? I’m no gardener clearly.) The crocuses, however, lay dormant for several years, and now bloom every year out of season, at the time of year perhaps when the ratio of light to dark matches that in March. I’m not sure how it works, but I know it does. Despite the fact that they’ve done this before, I forget every year and I am surprised anew whenever I see them poking up out of the ground some time in the waning days of summer.

I hope some day, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio or perusing my email to be similarly surprised, by justice, come unexpected, sweet and beautiful after a long wait.