366 days makes a year

Photo of Papa Zesser with Baby Baobao at table with cards and cake for first birthday, August 19, 2020.

Old and wiser, for sure;
And that’s just Papa Z

My darling Baobao,

Photo of Papa Zesser holding baby Baobao several hours after her birth, August 19, 2019.
The moment I saw your crown pushing into the world, I felt an almost magical love flood my body. Hormones are amazing things, but that love has only grown in each of the 366 days since then.

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written to you here — and even longer since I’ve written about you here.

I could type up a pretty long list of excuses and reasons, but I don’t imagine you (or any of our dozens of eavesdroppers) would find much of interest in that, so I’ll save the sackcloth and ashes for another place and another time.

For now, I just want to celebrate the fact of your existence for a full turn of our world about Mr. Sun.

Photos of baby Baobao on her own chair. At left, January 5, 2020; at right, August 17, 2020.
My how you’ve grown, my little person!

As I typed the paragraph/sentence above (three days ago now, as I hit “Publish”), I was sitting in my new “office” — an open concept situation in what used to be our living room and which is now, well, my office, your playroom and (still, sort of), our living room. Mama had just had lunch and gone upstairs to return to work in what used to be my office and which is now officially your bedroom, but which she is using as her office as she returns to work — but works from home for the foreseeable future.

Monday marked the end of her maternity leave, as today, Wednesday, marks the first anniversary of your birth.

Papa Z’s inner romantic wants to say that that wonderful evening marked his happiest day ever, but the truth is, you’ve brought even more joys to my life in the intervening 366.

Photo of Baby Baobao sleeping on Papa Zesser lap while holing his left index finger.
Joy of sleep, October 6, 2019 …

In one long yet o! so short year, you’ve changed, and you’ve changed, and you’ve changed. From an entirely helpless, barely sentient (let’s be honest) parasite, you have become a person, with likes and dislikes, a person moods and a sense of humour that shows a mouth filling with precious white teeth.

Photo of laughing baby Baobao showing two teeth each on top and bottom.
My laughing daughter shows four teeth as she laughs (and laughs, and laughs).

I will forever treasure the walks that we’ve taken, especially those without a metaphorical net — no stroller, no snugly, just you in my arms, reaching for the bark of your favourite tree, fondling the needles of.

Photo of Carl II testing baby Baobao's car seat on August 18, 2019.
Already a good big brother (goh-goh), Carl the Second tests your car-seat the night before your birth.

I will never forget the firsts — first taste of cheese, first no-question smile and laugh, first recognition of your goh-goh (my best effort to transliterate “big brother” from the Cantonese), Carl the Second (see photo above – and below), not to mention the first time I saw you pull yourself up on two legs …

Detail of photo of Papa Zesser holding Carl the Second and Baobao.
Brother and sister in arms, and all is well with the world. For now.

Well, there won’t be an end to first for quite a while yet, I hope. Right now, we’re waiting for that first step and your first English word (you nailed nigh-nigh (Cantonese transliteration again, for “milk” this time), but you’ve made it abundantly clear that your understood vocabulary is large and growing every day, if not by the hour.

Honestly, so much has happened during your first year breathing the air on this good earth that I find it hard to know what else to say.

We’ve made a few mistakes (that we know of), but I think we’ve done a pretty good job with you so far.

Photo of Papa Zesser holding baby Baobao as she shows her milk tongue.
The thrush that wasn’t – see First Mistake? for details.

The tragedy of parenthood — of first-time parenthood especially — is that one has no choice but to learn on the job, and it is the child who suffers from the mistakes. I take comfort in the fact that you are healthy and that you seem to be happy far more often than not.

You can spend happy times playing by yourself, babbling an apparent narrative of your life as you do so; you love to sleep and you do it well, but the first 30 seconds to five minutes must make our neighbours wonder if we’re torturing you.

Photo of Baby Baobao with newpaper pilfered from the recycle bin.
What’s the best kind of newspaper? A freebie published by the Falung Gong and intended to wrap organic waste, and pilfered from the recycle bin, of course!

You’ve become an explorer, delighting especially in trying anything — exploring the garbage, making a break for the stairs — we’ve forbidden you to do; you are a naturalist, collecting information about the world around you, and are showing signs of becoming a scientist, testing hypotheses too.

Photo of Papa Zesser catching Baby Baobao more than halfway up the stairs on July 31, 2020.
Baobao is a courageous explorer, albeit one who can scare hell out of Papa Zesser!

I dunno. I’m going on too long and it’s now the day after your birthday (and this year had an extra day to boot!), when what I really want to say is that — no joke, no exaggeration, no (forgive my language) bullshit: I love you more with each passing day and I am grateful beyond words that you have come into our lives.

Photo of Bay Baobao asleep with onesy reading 'I Heart dad" on the night of August 21, 2020.
I heart you, too, my darling girl!

I am already looking forward to your next birthday, with awe and wonder at all the changes the next 3654 days will bring. (And maybe by then, Mama will condescend to permit me to post a photo of her here as well.

Love always,

Papa Z
Ottawa, August 17-22, 2020


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