Dear Merritt,

You've decided that you have multiple hearts and you swap them in and out for various activities. Sometimes we'll be in the middle of something and you'll abruptly grab at your chest and then explain that you're switching hearts because the new one is better suited for the task. You most often use your "knowing" heart. But that doesn't mean we haven't been exposed to the likes of your "taco-eating" heart or your "singing" heart or your "Mario Kart" heart. You basically have a heart for any occasion.

There's the "making up words to get your point across" heart ("Momma, I 'successed' at falling asleep!"), which is not to be confused with the "I had a stroke and can't say words" heart ("Dury Judy? Jury Duey? Jury Dury? WHAT IS IT??" after you learned about my civic duty).

In addition to your bounty of hearts, you're brain continues to grow so rapidly and vibrantly that we're not sure how it still fits in your head.

Recently you asked, "Why do we live on the bottom of the earth?" And before I could even try to sort out what you said and respond, you emphatically stated, "WE DO. I CHECKED MY COMPASS." So maybe we'll work on your compass reading skills, and teaching you more about magnetism and poles, but good on you for understanding that the arrow was pointing down. At you. In your house where you live. Apparently at the bottom of the earth.

You got a double ear infection a couple of months ago and were in an incredible amount of pain. The kind of pain that had your mommas crying right alongside you. A few days out, once the medicine had started working and you were coming out of the fog, you got a very concerned look on your face and asked Mommy, "Santa doesn't mean when you cry from pain, right?" You better watch out, you better not cry from a raging double ear infection, you better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. She assured you that "pain tears" will never land you on the naughty list.

We were riding down the interstate recently and a black Audi flew past us on the left. Out of nowhere you said, "Know how I know that's not Todd?" (our neighbor, whom we had not been speaking about) "One, Todd would never speed. And two, that's not his car." It's, like, DUDE. Can we crawl into your brain to experience the synapses that create these astute observations?

Some of your best words/thoughts come out of the backseat.

Like the day you decided we were going to play a game and you needed to explain the rules.

You: Okay. We're playing the quiet game. T. You can only say "T" to talk. Un-T.

Me: (stifling laughter)

You: T. Why are you laughing? Un-T.

Be still my heart. I birthed Dwight Shrute.

You also send some excellent lyrics out of the backseat. Our favorites lately have been your versions of "Hard Knock Life" from Annie. Best so far have been "It's a hard enough life for us," and "It's a part of life for us." You're getting there.

But the most profound thing to come out of the backseat recently is your newfound but lasting interest in one Dr. Martin Luther (Lufer) King, Jr. You spent MLK day with Mommy while I had an inservice and when you asked why you were out of school that day, she explained about how he was an activist and a humanitarian and a civil rights leader. And then she explained what he fought for and why. And then she mentioned--in gentle terms--his assassination. You were at once appalled and horrified and moved. Since then, 90% of your backseat conversations find their way back to that great leader.

You: I got a paper cut at school today.

Me: Paper cuts are the worst.

You: No, cancer is the worst. Isn't it?

Me: Uh, It's way up there (deciding I'll just be quiet about AIDS and all the other horrible things in the world).

You: Cancer is the second worst. The first is how Martin "Lufer" King died.

Conversations like this are the reason you're the best human.

Followed closely by this gem that you busted out at the dinner table. All three of us were just a-talkin' and you said, "Hey! This is an ABC conversation. D your way out of it." To no one in particular.

There's also the way you call German Chocolate Cake "Germany Pie." And how you end stories with "Happily after after." And how during a recent bout with a stomach bug you explained, "It's just ... I feel 10% good. And ... 12% bad."

And then, of course, we're somehow back to Dr. King. And you want to know if Atlanta, Georgia is too far away for us to "go look at his stone." And you want to know what it means to "stand for" something and so we explain having an idea and representing it and supporting it and advocating for it, and you totally get it, but you have to add, "I know what D.K. stands for, too. Donkey Kong!"

Not that long ago, we were sitting around the table and making art and telling tales and you said, "I know the child of my storyhood." Your flipping of the words made me laugh, but I was also filled with hope that you will indeed grow up knowing the "child of your storyhood." That at some point you'll put in your "Dear Merritt" heart or your "reading" heart, your "five-and-a-half year old" heart, your "remembering" heart, and look back over these letters and get a clear vision of who you were and what you have always meant to us. That you will know the fullness and abundant joy and absolute bliss that raising you brings us. That there will never be enough hearts in the infinite universe to hold our love for you.


Momma and Mommy

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