Dear Lala,

You arrived on December 1st, and your presence in our home was so much a part of my Christmas break, I realized recently that a part of my heart expects you to be there again this Christmas. I opened my iPhoto earlier today, looking for something entirely unrelated to you, but your grinning face and dark eyes shone out at me from nearly every picture in the file, and my heart got a little heavier with every image I clicked through.

We miss you, Lala.

And there’s a lot to miss, too. You might have only weighed 27 pounds on a good day, but you left your mark in our lives and hearts every day of the weeks that you were with us. I spent a lot of time at home over Christmas break, soaking in the noise and movement and rhythm inside those brick apartment walls, and I could write a book of moments from those snowy winter days, many of them including, or ever featuring, your antics.

The fleecy-soft pink footy pajamas that Aunty bought you. The ones with the red and blue puppies on them. The ones you’re wearing in the pictures from Christmas morning, your face vibrant with glee every time we let you open another gift, another book, another stuffed animal.

The way you said “take a shower” as “chake a chower”- something that Glendy and Larissa and I still say, while exchanging meaningful looks and smiles softened with the far-away look of remembering months long gone by.

The Hello Kitty blanket that you slept with, wrapped tightly around your tiny body, and the way your Spanish and English blended every time you asked for your “kitty-cobija” before bed.

The time you sat on the counter while I washed dishes, our conversation bending between Spanish and English as the suds soaked into my apron and you took advantage of your temporary height to touch the knick-knacks that Aunty keeps on the windowsill, out of little hand reach.

The way your turned the nickname “Lala” into a mutual term of affection between you and I. For every time that I blew kisses, waved goodbye as I stood in my boots next to the front door, you returned my call of “Bye, Lala, I’ll see you later!” with a call of your own: “Bye, Lala! See you later!” And so we bid each other goodbye, said goodnight, greeted one another. Both of us Lala, by your own design.

The way you called play-doh “tomato” and the long, riotous laughter you brought us when Glendy tried to teach you otherwise. I have that conversation on video, Lala. You’re sitting in the high chair, wearing the velvet leopard-print outfit that you always thought was pajamas. You’re in the middle of devouring a plate of pasta with red sauce, and Glendy is sitting across the table from you, beyond the camera’s view. She leads you through the syllables, one at a time, while you repeat:

Her: Lala, can you say ‘play’?
You: play
Her: ‘doh’
You: doh
Her: ‘Play-doh’
You: TOMATO!

And then you’re smiling with success, your little hand still gripping your pasta-d fork, and in the background, we shake with laughter.

I’ve other videos, too. Just a few, thirty-second clips of conversations with you. I adored, was fascinated by, the way your little lips moved when you spoke; puckering out ever so slightly, to match your unique voice, faint preschool-lisp. I treasure those videos, watch them occasionally on my phone.

There’s a lot to remember, Lala. Some long nights, of course. Some three-year-old cry-outs, doubtless. But a lot of good, too.

I don’t know, of course, where you are, who’s with you, what you’re thinking and learning, right now. But I do know that you are loved, you and valued, and you are prayed for, so prayed for.

And for now, that is what I can do.

I miss you, Lala.

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~Natalia

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