Dear Kid A,

The other day you turned four, four gigantic years old, and since I've been in a pretty major writing funk, I've put off writing your birthday letter until now. In some ways I can't believe that you are only now turning four. You've seemed four for so long. When people have asked me how old you are, I've said "almost four" for months now, and they always say, "he's only three? Wow, he seems so much older." You have wise eyes, my son.

I am actually wriggling with anticipation over what this year will be like. You seem to be so teachable now, so ready to learn. I can't wait to know what steps you'll be taking in your fifth year.

And what has been going on over this last year? Well, we lived here at the Land, in the woods for your full fourth year of life. This means that you're officially a woods kid! When we moved here from San Francisco, you and YaYa were complete city kids. You would flee to the house as soon as you saw a bug. Now YaYa comes home from playing with thousands of tiny sticks in her hair, daily. You've acclimated.

This was also the year that your baby brother was born, and one of the things that is so endearing about you is that you've loved him from Day 1. You adore him. Also, the YaYa Sister started talking this year, which has caused big changes in sibling relationships around here. You have someone to talk to who is just a little bit smaller than you, someone to tease, laugh with, yell at, and boss around. We try to discourage the latter.

We watched some video of you the other day, from the flat in San Francisco where we lived with a bunch of friends. I was pregnant with YaYa and you were about fifteen months old. It was so strange, you looked so different, so small and chunky and your eyes took up half of your head. But, at the same time, I recognized you, and recognized things in you that still float around you, that settle where you settle and leave when you leave the room. I think it was a little of your essence, the part of you I can barely describe, that I recognized in that short video clip. I don't know how to describe it, something about the wideness of your eyes, the way you look around for support, the way you hold your head. You'll probably always have that.

We did a bit of travelling this year, went to the Rainbow Gathering Nationals. The other day you and I were walking across the Land and you were reminiscing about the places we've been.

"We've been to SOOOOO many gatherings. Three rainbow gatherings and LOTS of other gatherings."

"Well, yeah, sweetie, we've been to a lot of gatherings and festivals this year. But you've only been to two rainbow gatherings."

"Only two? Oh yeah! (smacks his forehead) You're right. Just two. (Looks at me quizzically) That thing at Heather's? That wasn't a rainbow gathering?"

"Nooooo.... that was a wedding, Kid A."

"Oh, right. A wedding."

Just a note for the future, Kid A. If you go somewhere and the people look disheveled, we're sleeping in tents, there's a fire every night, we carry our own bowl and spoon with us and call it "blissware", and we hike around with our stuff on our backs a lot, we call everyone "Brother" and "Sister" and sit in a circle to eat, you can bet it's a rainbow gathering.

If, on the other hand, everyone is dressed up, we are using the bathroom indoors, (instead of dug out latrines), there is electricity, we eat at a fancy sushi bar and have wine and everyone looks squeaky clean, not to mention the woman in the long white dress, we're probably at a wedding. I mean, I can understand how you'd be confused: people are gathered, there's music. Just pull out this list if you're unsure what kind of function you're at in the future.

It's so strange, the milestones now are so subtle. You grow in delicate shades of emotion and maturity. You don't melt down as much, but you still melt down. You are sad, sometimes, instead of usually just being mad. Sometimes you seem melancholy. You can climb and jump with the best of them, and you've lost a lot of your caution. You enjoyed swimming in the river for the first time this summer. You're dying to surf, dying to start skateboarding. You've been working on your breakdancing skills.

At your birthday party the other day, when it was all over and everyone was gone and we were just checking over things to make sure nothing had been left behind, you ran up to me and gave me a gigantic hug. I loved that. You were happy and content and wanted to hug me. I was so glad to hug you back, I could have hugged you forever, but you always opt out before forever, so I let you go, and let you run back to your "light-sword" to fight with your dad.