The illustration at the top left of the page here is of the two of us, in 2020, drawing the first Daily Kina. You were three years old. If this newspaper were a person, it would be three now. That makes you six. You're good at math; you knew that.
The thing I've been thinking for the last few weeks is that I really don't know what three years feels like, and I don't think I'd ever fully considered it before—I've never stared squarely at that period of time. Until this very moment, three years didn't ever feel like a long time. It was shorter than most of the jobs I'd ever held, shorter than high school, shorter than a presidential administration.
But three years is a long time, Kina. Long enough to return to school. Long enough to grow several inches taller. Long enough to learn to read. Long enough to forget, as it turns out—as you have forgotten loads of the things that happened in that first year of the pandemic, the first months of the things I worked so hard to write down. It's a good thing I was writing them down.
Whatever three years feels like, it doesn't feel like the amount of time that has passed since we started doing this together. That moment feels so close to me, so casual. We were bored, yeah? We were getting tired of watching Daniel Tiger. We had no car, nowhere to go, and nothing to do. You had these crayons—decorative, like the soap in a guest washroom, with little sculptures of butterflies and cats on the blunt ends. We pulled out a sheet of cheap pink construction paper and I drew a newspaper on it. The top headline was “You a Cheese Fiend” and it featured a drawing of a moose. There was an off-color story about poop on the floor. It cost twenty-five cents and was not really for sale.
The crayons are still here, by the way. They're in the craft box. Turns out they're mostly decorative, so I started using markers instead. The fact that the crayons are still here is a sign that three years is not that long a time.
We have not skipped a day in three years, which makes everything sort of blurry and continuous. The thing that happens in our life together—that you and I and Mommy grow up all together, in little tiny gasps—makes it hard for me to see from day to day how much you've grown from the first issue to the most recent, but as I look back, I see you watching your preschool teachers on a laptop and trying on princess dresses and running around on the beach at Fort Tilden on a cold day in April. I see you small, and I see myself desperate in a way to find something to grab onto. I see myself grabbing onto you.
I've changed too. Seeing how much you've grown, how much I've grown, is a sign that three years is actually a pretty long time. It just doesn't make sense. I noticed this year that anytime I ask anybody how old they are or how hold their kids are or how long they've lived in a place, I am always exactly three years surprised at the actual answer. It's always three years too long, too old. Three seems not that much younger than six, but you're three years older than I think of you, sometimes. How precocious you are, I think, when I see you reading or dancing or drawing unicorns. A three year old can't do those things!
This thing can't be three! You can't be six!
It feels like you and I just started this last week, but the boxes and boxes of paper stored around the apartment suggest otherwise. On them, a story unfolds, but it unfolds so slowly that it sometimes feels like going back to read it all would take a whole other three years, bending imperceptibly like a plant as the sun crosses the sky. And then you'd be nine.
Not a story, maybe. Notes to a life—maybe yours, maybe mine, maybe ours. Like most notes, the point isn't to look back on them but to help make sense of what's happening now. Those many boxes are three years of *now*, just hanging there frozen in space. They're waiting for you, in a way, but they're also holding time for both of us. They're giving us a way to remember, and permission to forget.
It's a minor thing, this memory, but those boxes of paper were getting kind of unwieldy, and I realized I could save a lot of space if I just stripped off all the nubbly bits from the edges of the paper. I sat in the bedroom and tore off all the perforations, reading the headlines as I went. The pages all felt crisp and present, and I turned them over one by one, month by month, season by season. It was winter, then spring, then summer again. You learned to dance. You learned to read. You started to draw more with me. The Parades got more ornate. You entered kindergarten and then first grade. You grew to be the girl you are today.
That girl will have all this. Someday, as I say every year, I will stop—probably when you ask me to. And then this three years will be yours to try to understand. Lord knows I've tried.
This is what three years feels like. Forever.
I love you.