The green dinosaur was rough to touch, had a distinct plastic chemical smell, and was only a little larger than your brother’s tiny two-year-old hands. It was a t-rex with sharp little claws labeled “not suitable for infants”, but it was the perfectly imperfect gift for you, his impending baby brother.
On a cold Kansas winter afternoon, we were on a mission to buy your first welcome gift. I saw the idea in a parenting magazine, and your brother was energized by the task. We slowly walked the store, bundled up in our puffy winter coats, looking at soft blankets and teethers, but your brother was adamant that you would want something you could play with together. I pleaded with him to buy the “picture perfect” gift - an organic teether, soft to touch, with a faint smell of marzipan; a rainbow quilt with textured ribbons attached; or a beautifully designed educational toy.
He repeatably denied all my requests. All of them.
He had a clear vision of what he wanted for you, and I had to let him lead. I was getting frustrated and had to repeatedly remind myself to be patient and ignore the increasing waves of tiredness and small pains. They had become more frequent as the day went on, and I knew they were normal for the late stage of pregnancy I was in. I longed for us to wrap it up so I could rest and took another sip of water to help distract myself.
His face lit up when he saw the bright green two-dollar t-rex, and he quickly changed pace from the slow meander through the fluorescent-lit aisles to a hurried rush to check out. At nine months pregnant, I struggled to catch up with your brother, as he dashed to the counter, ready to pay. My breath quickened from the short shuffle, holding my belly firmly, feeling you move with me. I slowly reached for my wallet, readjusting my t-shirt to cover the gap between my belly and leggings, and paid. Your brother, vibrating with excitement, proudly told the lady behind the counter that this was a gift for his new baby. The lady failed to even curl the sides of her lips to fake a smile, she was completely disinterested, but he didn’t care. He skipped out of the store, ignoring the cold blast of winter air that hit us as the doors opened, elated with his new find for you.
At the hospital on the day of your birth, he flung upon the room door, almost tripping over his crocs in anticipation. He immediately gave you your dinosaur, throwing it at you with excitement. He was so energized to hold you and tell you about your new toy. Your brother sat next to me, kicking the side of the bed gently with his feet one by one, his heart racing while I cradled you over his lap. This moment felt so natural, despite it being the first time we sat as a trio. The dinosaur balanced gently on your stomach, faced down, with the sharp hands resting just above your belly button. It moved with the motion of your breath. You wiggled gently while swaddled in your blue fleece blanket, and your brother immediately saw this as appreciation, confirming his gift purchasing expertise. He was convinced your hands tried to squeeze out of the swaddle to grab the dinosaur, as they pushed forcefully against the inside of the fabric, your cheeks flushed in unison with every effort.
Time instantly stopped at that moment as I witnessed the deep love he had for you. I was anxious he would be jealous of you at that moment with our family of three now becoming four, but he simply beamed with pride. His body became more relaxed, and his feet were no longer in motion. The frantic energy had completely disappeared, and everything paused. I had not even realized that we were incomplete until this moment.
Seven years later, the green dinosaur is stuck at the top of your old daycare building in South Korea, having been thrown up there by one of your friends when you brought it in for show and tell. The perfectly imperfect faded t-rex may be gone, but his memory will be etched in my mind forever.
About the Author: DANIELLE TENCONI is a chief marketing officer and military spouse. She is the mother of two boys and lives in Central Texas. A native of London, England, Danielle has worked professionally on four continents and met her husband while backpacking around Australia. When she’s not working, Danielle enjoys exercising, reading, the great outdoors, and traveling. Danielle and her family are building a ranch in far west Texas and looking forward to new adventures.