This is how I’ll measure, you I think—
In trips to the orchard, in the fall.
This accidental tradition–started when you were still inside me, when I still had yet to announce to the world the news of your presence, when I still had yet to feel your tiny kicks and your baby hiccups–
This is how I’ll measure you.
This year, we set you down on the gravelly path leading to the trees, and you swung your arms and stomped along the path, immediately sure of yourself.
After all, you’d done this before.
You’d done this in utero, your tiny self perhaps napping as we strolled in the sunlight, and you’d done this as a baby just last year, apple juice dribbling down your chin as you tasted this fruit for the first time (since we’d waited until we knew we had the best in front of you).
This time, we handed you a tiny bucket, perfect for small, still-growing hands.
You marched straight into the trees and started filling your bucket with the red and green orbs littering the ground, without needing to be prompted or without watching us do it first.
Your bucket quickly got heavy, but you didn’t want us to help you—
After all, you’d been here before and knew how it worked.
We thought you might get frustrated when Daddy started taking some of the precious apples you’d collected and “donated” them to the white bins under the trees. We thought you might be possessive of all these fruits that you’d just carefully put into your bucket, one by one by one.
But you simply ran to the next apple on the ground, picked it up, and then “donated” it to the same place that Daddy just had.
Because you learn fast, and often just after one time of watching.
Yes, this is how I would like to measure you, in trips to the orchard.
I will measure you by the times you cried whenever we tried to herd you into the small shop to pay for our treasure, or whenever you thought it might be time to go, or whenever we tried to pick you up (when all you wanted was to try out your own legs, running them back and forth across the sunlit grass and apple-strewn dirt).
I will measure you by how you laughed as you tried to run away every time you saw our arms stretching out to pick you up, eager to buy yourself just another minute of doing-this-right-now.
Fiercely independent and outside in your element, it is hard for you to understand why on earth we could ever choose be anywhere else.
I can measure you by how easily Daddy can still swing you up in his arms and reach you up high, high, and higher in order to feel the satisfaction that only comes from getting something that you thought was out of your reach.
You often struggled against him–intent on trying to do it by yourself–but eventually, when you realized what he was trying to do, you would stop fighting and instead laugh as you were able to reach up and grab that marbled green Macintosh that was way above your head, plucking it free from the tree with a triumphant squeal.
I can measure your fearlessness as you bite into the unknown, surprised at first by the crackling of the apple flesh breaking across your teeth and the sudden shock of tart juices running down to your collar.
You could hold the apple yourself, but you still let me hold it for you.
I can measure you by your undisguised impatience for adult things (like getting pictures taken), coupled with your intense desire to do everything that we do, like picking up Daddy’s bucket which is just *barely* too heavy.
You only stopped trying when we diverted you by putting apples into your own.
I can measure your desire to help and to share by the apples you placed one at a time into my waiting palm, delighted when I called you my favorite little helper.
You tend to share without asking, to give without expectation. It’s something I hope I can still measure in you for infinite orchard trips to come.
I can measure you by all these things, Raven, but I can never truly show in measurements the depth of YOU—
Your sweetness, your exuberance, your joy for living.
But when we’re lucky enough to be graced with crisp autumn days that are nostalgic yet so breathtakingly NOW, I know that I can measure my bucket only in the fact that I know it’s overflowing.