Oscar, boy.

in a book that your eager father will probably read to you sometime…oh…next year, there is a short little, old little person named Bilbo Baggins, who is having a birthday party. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, which is a furry, hungry, pleasant sort of little creature that you quite resemble, actually, except for the furry part. but give that time, my son. i regret to inform you that genetics indicate that fur is your destiny.

in any case, the book that your father loves and to which i am referring opens with a birthday party that Mr. Bilbo Baggins, hobbit, is throwing for himself. he is eleventy-one on this particular birthday, which is a hobbit way of saying one-hundred-and-eleven, but much more fun. and a ripe old age, no matter which way you count it.

i have always thought there was something a little magical – fey, even – about the number eleven.

i have been sure, for quite some time, that there is definitely something magical about you.

you are eleven months old today, Oscar. still a baby, but barely…on the verge of a kind of selfhood that must be what the word ‘toddler’ is meant to signify. and you are different every day, which is probably part of why you seem enchanted…in my world, normal everyday folk are not nearly so changeable. but you are busy discovering the world, and i suppose that changes one. you are doing a good job.

your discoveries are mostly, at this point, still mostly made by mouth…your grandmother worries terribly about your teeth snapping in half, you know, but i suspect you have good sense about you…but recently you’ve begun using your hands for more than slapping at the world and are grasping things, pulling at things, using your snazzy pincer grip to select small, forgotten items of interest off of our floor and bring them to your mouth for further analysis. you have not yet discovered one single thing in the entire world that you will not accept in your mouth. i like this about you. i suppose fussiness will come – in truth i used to see fussiness as a sign of personality development, but now i wonder if it was merely a substitute – but thus far, you are open. you will try anything.

this wide-openness about you is more beautiful than i can say.

at this juncture in your life, Oscar, you are one of the most sociable people i have ever met, of any size. you have a habit of playing coy, sometimes, and ducking your round head into my shoulder when greeted by a smile from somebody else, but then you turn your head back and your mouth opens in a gap-toothed smile and you bat your eyelashes…which to my great delight did finally come in a few months ago. they are beautiful. you are beautiful. you are also a flirt. you learned to wave just this month and have been gracing grocery shoppers and street signs around the city with your bountiful gestures…fat little hand turned up at the wrist, demanding and friendly, graceful in its insistence. you made a friend the other day while we waited in a lineup – a lovely young woman of about twenty – and from your perch in the shopping cart you must have waved at this girl a hundred times, glee on your face, all the time making eye contact with her and squeaking your presence and your pleasure. she was quite charmed, if a little embarrassed when you did not stop after the first three minutes or so and she had run out of things to say to you. you were not deterred. you are not easily deterred, in anything.

the cat is your friend too…though you take more overt delight in her than she does in you these days, since “gentle” is still a word we’re working on, Oscar. but you light up when she comes into the room, and make a high “hee hee” sound that you reserve specially for her. i think, deep inside, she’s honoured. she follows you on your speed-crawling journeys from room to room, just out of reach. i call you Butch and Sundance, the two of you, one humping away from me madly, giggling in his diaper, the other picking her way alongside.

soon you will be walking away from me, baby O, my bunny. you stand now, for seconds, unsupported, before your legs v out and you flop down on your bumtail. soon, the steps will come. and the words too, singling themselves out from the babble and hisses that punctuate our conversations. i am waiting for “mama,” still…mama for me. and i wonder when it will come and even if…the fear of autism and language delay and disconnect that worms its way around the back of my head…and then you smile at me when i come into the room and i know that i am special to you no matter what you say, ever in this life, and you are only eleven months old anyway and for me, you are the sun in the sky.

you are eleven months old, Oscar. it is a special birthday.