Saturday, October 1, 2011
Those Were the Days
Recently my older girls have been pestering me to tell them stories about when they were a baby. "What was it like," Madeleine asked me. What was it like? Hmmm. The phrase is really the perfect expression of what we take with us as we move along the lunch line. Can you remember what "it" was like when your kids were little, or even better when you were younger?
What was it like to play outside until the sun went down, or until my mom whistled for us to come home?
What was it like to spend Christmas with one parent while missing the other?
What was it like to fall in love, I mean really, really fall in love in a way that changed everything?
What was it like to stand in my sister's bathroom putting make-up on the morning I got married?
What was it like to feel something human move inside you?
What was it like to be home alone with a baby, your baby, for the first time?
What was it like to have this child talk to you and ask questions, her wide-eyed curiosity making you realize how marvelous and amazing the little things are, like grass and red grapes.
What was it like to have two little girls, to divide your time between these tiny people who need you, need you, need you all the time?
What was it like to realize the girls don't need you like they used to, and they definitely don't want you sneaking hugs in front of their friends?
What was it like?
I don't know. Sometimes I don't know what to tell them except it was both hard and wonderful, just like it is now. Thinking about all these instances of what was it like reminds me that in a few years they will ask, what was it like when we were in first and second grade? I've been writing in their journals, trying to keep track of what things are like now so that when they ask later on I'll know what to say:
When you were in first and second grade things got quieter and my day job became easier. It was just Elisabeth and I each day and we were best buddies. We hiked in the foothills near our house every single morning, and in the afternoons while she slept I wrote and wrote and wrote. Those were the days when my writing still felt small and fragile, the way unpublished writers always feels. I had to try really hard all the time to keep my work and my work-related thoughts relegated to those brief afternoon nap time hours so that the uncertainty of it all didn't affect, or infect, our family life. Those were the days when we began spending our afternoons in the car, when you both learned to read and fell in love with books, and when every few weeks another of your baby teeth would fall out. Those were the days when your questions started sounding thoughtful and grown up, when you felt heavy to hold on my lap, and every few weeks I'd stand outside your bedroom door with my eyes closed feeling dizzy because it was going by too fast. It's going by too fast. Those were the days, so let's not forget them.