I wrote the first draft of this earlier this month, when our boy turned one. Recapping a year seemed and impossible task, but I read once that if you can list memories, you can write memoirs.
It was January. You were born.
We took you home on a rainy Friday. You wore a white sleeper with bull dogs, a patch on your lapel proclaiming that you were Daddy’s Best Friend. “Don’t Stop Believing” was on the radio when we climbed into the car and drove off with you. In a coincidental twist of fate that I’ll always remember, it was the same song on the radio a few days before that, when I climbed into the car to go to the hospital and have you.
I learned to properly affix diapers to your tiny self, and gave you sponge baths in the sink, and held you against my chest. You wore your sleeper with the frogs, the blue one with the snowmen, your pants with dogs on the feet. I sang to you when I put you to bed– In My Life and Sweet Baby James. You woke every few hours and I nursed you and burped you, counting 200 or 300 pats on your back just to keep me awake. Through the window I could see the road on the other side of the woods, and I watched occasional headlights drive by– feeling comforted knowing others were out there awake, wondering who they were and what they were doing.
It was February.
You were now a person with a belly button. You wore your yellow sleeper with the ducks, an outfit we had been gifted before we even knew that you were a boy. Back when you were a peach or a pomegranate or some other petite piece of produce, and the idea of an actual baby in a duck sleeper was so very surreal. I tried to take you out. Every time I would fumble with your car seat, forget your pacifiers, struggle to load you into your carrier while the freezing wind hit us both. I had the same thought every time: I don’t know why I even bother trying to leave the house. One day I looked out the window and saw a woman down the street walk out her door and load her baby into the car like it was nothing. I assumed she was some brilliant, genius kind of person and it would never be that effortless for me.
It was May.
The trees had leaves and I couldn’t see the road on the other side of the woods anymore. You played on your furry bear mat. You spent your days squealing, kicking your legs, and arching yourself into a macaroni shape as you learned to roll. In the car I’d marvel I could pass you a toy from the front seat, and a small hand would reach up like a periscope and take it from me. You put in your tummy time, propped in the Boppy on your elbows, working so hard to pull your head all the way up until your eyes met mine. I did the biggest double take of my life the first time I went to get you from your crib and you had rolled yourself into a different position. We rejoiced as the weather warmed. We drove with the windows down, singing along to Slowhand. We sat outside at Chipotle. I nursed you on our deck. The butterfly bush in our flower bed grew and grew– it was seven feet tall, engulfed the front window, and practically attacked me every time I walked up to the house. I had planted it as a little sprout back during your second trimester.
It was July.
It was summer and you squirmed as I put sunscreen on your ears and nose and tiny curled up feet. You wore bucket hats all the time– the white one with the navy stripe, the one with the grasshoppers, the plaid one. You slithered across the house on your stomach, and ate bananas, and bounced in your Exersaucer. We went everywhere– down turnpikes, past distant sky lines, over suspension bridges, across state lines. You spent your days in one piece creepers– always with a whale or a crab or a puffer fish or some other nautical fauna. Great catch! Pinch me, I’m cute! Ahoy, ladies! We were at the beach with your family and you’d come home for your nap with a diaper full of sand. In the late afternoon we’d sit on the porch– you on a lap, the adults with glasses of wine, the dogs sprawled and snoozing. At night your cousins helped give you baths and picked out your PJs. I realized it was these summer days that I had dreamed of.
It was September.
You still couldn’t sleep. You’d cry on the monitor and before I rolled over I’d say a silent prayer: please just tell me we made it to 12:30. Sometimes we did and sometimes it was 10:52. You learned. You were a baby who could tear up magazines, pick up Cheerios, cruise laps in your crib. You sat up in the bath tub all by yourself, and amidst a sea of toys, always went right for the same purple parrot. We took the requisite fall pictures of you– on a bail of hay, next to a pumpkin, propped in a bin of gourds. You wore your sneakers with the baseballs, and always a jacket with ears on the hood– your red one, your blue one with the polar bears. One day we went to the grocery store and encountered three different sets of parents with babies under a month old. All of them looked at you and had the same reaction: Just so…. big! I wondered if the torch had been passed– if for someone else, I was the woman I saw out the window over the winter.
It was December.
You began every day the same way, a chorus of bwa bwa bwa bwa bwaaa da da da da daaaa! I began every day the same way, with songs from your library music class in my head. Way up high in the apple tree, one little apple was looking down at me! You took a step. Then two, then three. By the time we rang in 2014, you could bolt across a room. It snowed and you watched the snow blowers in silent awe. You climbed everything. (Everything.) You squealed and cackled when we tickled your ribcage, held you upside down, played peek-a-boo. You chased the dog around the house, whacking him with an open palm or pulling his ears, me always rushing over to console the poor guy and show you how we touch gennnnnnt-llllly. You took breaks from nursing just to look up at me and smile and reach out for my face. More than anything in the last year, it’s that face that will be imprinted in my memory forever.
It’s January again.
I spend a lot of time thinking about all the Januaries that came before. Before you chattered to me from the backseat of the car. Before the carpet became threadbare in the spot where we stand to change you. Before I could list the furnishings in the great green room and tell you what the caterpillar ate through on Tuesday. Before the subtle reminders of parenthood surrounded me– the sippy cups in the dishwasher, the tiny socks speckled in the laundry basket, the covers on the outlets. It will be like that again, when you’ve grown up and flown away from us. During the frustrations and the exhaustion I kept coming back to that reflection. You’ll want these moments back someday.
Soon it will be 2:55 a.m. and your days as a baby will be behind you. But tonight I’ll put you to bed like I always do. I’ll kiss your blonde hair, still damp from your bath. I’ll hug you close. Sway you gently. Bring your head to rest on my shoulder. And hold on to that feeling.