mairin is one of eight cousins, ranging in age from 5 months (her fave, baby e) to 15 years (her least fave, cousin l, a tall kid whose height really scares her). throw all those kids in a room with a wii and let the fun begin.

which is to say, it’s been a crazy weekend.

last night i brought m home early because she kept climbing in my lap and squirming and crying, which didn’t annoy me until it began to interfere with my focus on my glass of wine . when m and i got home we put on jammies and brushed our teeth, climbed into the big bed in our room, and cuddled while she drank her bottle and fondled her bellybutton. when she was done she handed me her bottle and sank a little further into the bed.

but she didn’t close her eyes.

usually at bedtime m finishes her bottle she hands it to me, then rolls over and goes to sleep; a few minutes later i carry her into her crib. but last night she lay next to me, eyes wide open, slowly looking around the room. when it was clear to me she wasn’t going to go to sleep anytime soon i started talking to her quietly about her day. i reminded her of the games she’d played, the people she’d seen, how much fun she’d had. as i was talking she turned toward me and smiled that all-heart smile that every toddler reserves for just the right moment to melt a grown-up’s heart.

feeling all gooey and melty myself, i smiled back, kissed her on the top of her head, and kept talking. i told her what a good girl she was. her smile got bigger. i told her that she is my favorite 15-month-old. her smile got a little bit bigger. i told her i love her. she lifted her head a little more and then slowly started to nod.

yes mama, you love me.

tertia talked last week about the incredible feeling that is mommy-love — the all-encompassing affection and devotion that parents feel towards their kids. i love that feeling. love love love it. that feeling is my addiction: i love loving these little people. it makes me bigger and more spacious — my heart has a room in it for each daughter, and each room is its own little big sky country.

what more can a girl ask for?

thanksgiving 2005 — 9 months after earl died — i stayed home by myself and ate a pumpkin pie.

we usually give thanks with a large group of friends that all make an effort to see each other twice a year: once for a summer trip to the beach, and again for thanksgiving. these are the two most important events of my year. i love love love these people. but that year i couldn’t go.

a week before the big day a friend had mentioned that a certain, kinda-extra couple would be there. i like these people a lot, and i think my friend meant to cheer me by telling me they’d be spending thanksgiving with us. but…he said something (i can no longer remember exactly what) about them bringing their son, who was about 15 months old. and while even though i can’t remember what he said i remember perfectly clearly the thought i had after he said it: “don’t offer me a substitute baby!” whatever he had actually said, i had heard him say that even though my baby wouldn’t be there, this other baby would. i’m pretty sure he didn’t mean even to say that.

i didn’t break down until after i got off the phone. then i sank into the couch and wept.

i haven’t thought about that day for a while. it has been much easier and so much more pleasant to remember thanksgiving 2006, when 3-month-old mairin responded to the noise and chaos of the food-and-friend-filled weekend by nursing nonstop — straight through, even, our outing to see casino royale. she was the hit of the weekend. she made mothering look so easy.

but i’m thinking about that day now because tomorrow i’ll be eating turkey with a thoughtless woman who once referred to earl as “the miscarriage baby.”

i don’t want to see her.

i don’t want to have to talk to her.

i don’t want anybody to mention ruby in front of her.

i’ve been obsessing about this for two weeks, since i learned the very disappointing news that she’d be joining us. (i don’t usually feel this way toward people, but this woman is a very special case.) i’ve been imagining all the terrible things she might say to me, or in front of me, or within ear shot, and i’ve been trying to think of snappy comebacks. nada. everything i think of is just bitchy right back in return. and long-winded. i mean, if i’m going to be an evil bitch from hell, i should at least be a quick-witted evil bitch from hell.

gotta love the holidays.