Our beautifuls.

Dear Kid,

When you were brand new, we examined the whole of you, marveled at this small person: our daughter. Your mop of shiny, black hair…little ears, a tiny nose, pouty lips, balled up fingers, a birthmark on your right hand and, on the underside of your left wrist, a roughly two-inch patch of depigmentation. Marks of distinction.

Like you, they had a story.

When I was pregnant, Dad and I determined to do the panoply of genetic screening to determine that you wouldn’t be born debilitated or too sick to see a first birthday. And one of those early tests, a screen for spina bifida, came back out of range. Eventually we’d repeat the test and determine, though never with complete certainty, that things were probably ok. (“Ok” as in you probably didn’t have spina bifida, but you might have a cleft lip or a birth mark, either of which could have generated the false positive.) We could live with this – and so could you.

Which never guaranteed you’d go your whole entire life in blissful ignorance of the stuff that makes you different. Which never guaranteed you’d actually like those birth marks.

Still, I was secretly hoping. So I promised myself as a poured over your new baby body that I’d remind you, whenever it happened that you needed reminding, that, look, it’s like this: You’re a spectacle. And you’re spectacular.

So it was that, a few weeks back, you were having a bath when you noticed that little birth mark and tried with all your might to scrub it off with a bath-mit. No, we said. That’s you.

“Ic-ky?”

No, you. Not icky.

“Doity?”

Not dirty, you. Beautiful. That’s your beautiful, said Daddy.

“Boo-ful?” You stared, calculated our veracity. Could it be?

Beautiful.

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You smiled. And so it was that I began methodically pointing to each freckle, age spot, wrinkle, laugh line, post-nursing breast, soft belly, spider vein, stubbly leg and frizzy hair I had to show for myself. “See? Mama’s got beautifuls, too! We all do. Aren’t we beautiful?”

“Yeah! Boo-ful! Boo-ful: Elbee! Boo-ful: Daddy! Boo-ful Mama!”

And for the first time in my whole entire life I believed it because you did. Also, because I realized it’s goddamned true.

We are, each of us, exactly as we should be. We’re beautiful, kid. (Not flawless, mind. Beautiful.) We’re beautiful because we’re human. We’re beautiful because ain’t nobody else like us. We’re beautiful because G-d paints in color. We’re beautiful because we played so hard we scraped up our knees, laughed till our faces got stuck that way, thought so smart we got other people thinking, lived to be new enough that everyone and everything was the loveliest we ever saw, old enough to see things that made our hair turn pale, bold enough to speak our truths.

This is mine:  You are the single most beautiful thing I ever saw.

Love,

Mama

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F(eats).

Dear Kid,

Once a week, your occupational therapist sends home a carbon-copied progress report on a yellow piece of paper. Once a week, she tells me what I already know about you. You’re “atypical.” Of course, she’s talking about your meal-time behavior: The way most kids can chew and swallow a variety of tastes and textures and temperatures and you can’t. As for me, I’m contemplating the essence of you…the way you’re original.

We did our best to make meal time “fun.” Fun, for whom, we weren’t sure but it was just what the OT ordered. This once, I danced in wild circles to a backdrop of “Hungry Like the Wolf,” while I plated some apricots you wanted but couldn’t eat. You gave it a try. You gagged the way you always did and asked for more. Eventually, because it was the last resort, I handed you the bottle full of formula you preferred to the sippie cup you struggled to manipulate.

And after we were, each of us in her own right, sufficiently exhausted for the struggle, I set aside your tray, released you to the living room, and we danced. We danced and we danced and we danced to pop, hip hop, rockabilly, reggae, kids’ classics. Song after song, you threw your body into the music like the next goddamned Mia Michaels: feeling every note, moving with it, moved by it.

When Katy Perry roared, so did you. And as if to drive home the point that even if you never got to “typical” you’d still be totally ok, you turned to the tray full of apricots, directing your performance at your food. It was hysterical. It was heartbreaking. “R-r-r-r-r-r-roar.”  And, hell, even if that yellow piece of paper declared you just like every kid for whom the act of eating isn’t scary or painful – even if declared Daddy and me just like every parent who could go ahead and take for granted the fact that their kid would get through dinner sans G-Tube or Heimlich maneuver – you’d be this: a force, a movement.

I could have watched this routine forever: Little arms extended, head rolling, body bent at hips, hands to floor, reach for the stars, laugh. The irony: You only stopped dancing to feed your Cabbage Patch doll a make-believe meal from a miniature bottle. “Baby, eat!”

At sixteen-months-old you were tossing around some 70+ nouns and a handful of adjectives. Eat: Your first verb.  It might have been “walk,” or “jump” or “dance,” or “poop” but it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. You perceived your world as truly and deeply as someone beyond her year.

And I knew then (or maybe I just remembered) that you were extra special. I say it less because I’m your mother and more because it’s true. I hope that however your little life unfolds, that when you’re up against a formidable foe, when somebody tells you you can’t, when you wonder whether it’s possible, when you’re feeling kind of scared, when getting through the day is a freaking feat, that you always answer back with so fierce and mean a roar…that you move and you shake and you take your place, that you perceive that you are as deeply loved as all this.

Get it, girl.

Love,

Mama

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An ode to every teacher I ever had.

Dear Kid,

This week, and right in step with hundreds of thousands of other kids moving from one grade to the next as part of the annual festival-ritual known as “Back To School,” you transitioned to a toddler classroom and acquired a couple of new teachers. One of them was the epitome of Miss Trunchbull: an unsmiling, tired-looking grump who maybe doesn’t even like kids but likes having a job. Or maybe she’s just sad. If it weren’t for the fact that she’s one half a classroom pair (the other gal smiles sometimes), I might be truly horrified. As it is, though, I’m really not. I’ll choose to believe your first skinned knee has nothing to do with being neglected on the playground. It has to do with being given the opportunity to run free and unencumbered.

It turns out that even the ones who aren’t your favorites have their place: an extra special role in making you you.

Look, teachers are hella-important people. Seriously, in my book, they’re right up there with soldiers and doctors and fire fighters and police officers – and not necessarily having anything to do with their specialized training or subject matter expertise (though, to be sure, some of them have it). No. Rather, and by virtue of the fact that they spend so much time with us – to say nothing for the way that lots of them work really, really hard –  teachers help shape our character. Sometimes, maybe even often times, they help shape good character.

I remember some of what I learned from textbooks and formal lessons. I remember every teacher I ever had. I paid attention in class – and I paid attention to them.

I remember the way they pointed their fingers, pursed their lips or tapped the chalkboard with a pointer. I knew, because I heard it from some other wise eight-year-old who heard it from her mother, whether they were single or married or had a dog or a daughter or smoked cigarettes on their lunch breaks. I can still hear their voices saying things like, “Correct,” or “Good morning, honey,” or “How are your folks?” For a very long time, I’m quite certain I didn’t completely believe they were regular people like you and me. They were super heroes, movie stars, way up on a pedestal reserved for people you want to be like when you grow up.

These women – for most of them were – taught me to be. And they taught me to be your mom.

The summer before sixth grade, I was handed this formidable reading list at around the same time as I received a tip from a rising seventh grader: “With Mrs. B-, there’s no bullshit.” A semi-truant troublemaker who was barely promoted to the next grade, he meant it as a pejorative. “She’s no joke.” On the one hand, I already loved this woman: I hated bullshit and jokes as much as I hated the semi-truant troublemaker. On the other hand, I hoped “no joke” meant she wouldn’t be unpleasant and that literature would still be my favorite subject at the end of the year.

As it turned out, there was no bullshit. She was no joke. She gave me a 60 percent on my first 10-question quiz. I came home after school that day and promptly informed your grandparents she was as terrible as everyone said, but your grandfather wasn’t buying it. “She’s not terrible. She’s challenging you. And just you wait: You’re going to really like this lady.” And slowly, slowly, I came to see that Pop was exactly right.

Mrs. B- stood a little over five feet tall in heels and commanded the room with a quiet resolve that few children were keen to test because everyone understood she meant business. I never heard her raise her voice. She didn’t have to. She was even-handed, fair, played no favorites. She smiled sometimes. She was, it turned out, kind of nice. She used literature as a mere platform to teach us kids about the way the world worked. (“Kit and Hannah are outcasts. What would it feel like to be an outcast?”) She forced us to look up the meanings of words we didn’t know, use them in sentences and read “up.” (I tackled The Scarlet Letter before my twelfth birthday.) She caused us to think differently, more critically, about books – and, in the process, I began to think more critically about everything…including this little woman who taught me so much of what I know about strength.

Your mama stands a little over five feet tall in heels. She doesn’t raise her voice. (She’s heard.) Your mama is fair.  Your mama smiles sometimes. Maybe she’s even kind of nice! And she’ll insist you think critically and believe you are as bold and brave and strong as she knows you are. Thank Mrs. B- for that.

And there were others, kid.

There was Mrs. C-, who never discouraged the idea that girls could be astronauts (or lawyers-turned-non-profit-administrators). She’s a piece of why I think your girl parts are no limit to what you can be.

There was Mrs. N-, who, though I never actually saw the leprechaun she kept in that Ball jar on her desk, helped me to appreciate everyday ordinary/extraordinary magic. She’s how come when we find a shell on the beach, I pick it up, put it to my ear and insist I’m taking a telephone call from a mermaid.

Mrs. R- encouraged us not to be scared of the bombs in Baghdad making the nightly news. Somewhere out there a soldier was busting ass to keep us kids safe. This is still true.

Miss J- was the only woman I knew who liked football as much as she did. Years later, I’d learn there are others. I’d learn the rules of the game, and I’d learn she was on to something. (Apologies to her Bills. In our house, we are Patriots fans! When you’re allowed to stay up past 7:00pm, you’ll know why.)

Mrs. M- hoped we’d take what we learned about the voting process and vote someday because it’s so important. I rock that vote every chance I get, and I take you along for the ride so you’ll behold my extra special power and be inspired to exercise yours as soon as you’re able.

These days, a couple of them are my Facebook friends. With others, I catch up over e-mail a few times a year. Some get your wallet-sized picture in a holiday card. We’ve had visits, coffee, dinner. Turns out, teachers are actually regular people with extraordinary influence.  And I’m extraordinarily grateful for it.

Look, you might be just too little to remember Trunchbull. But when you fall down and get back up, dust off your own knees and keep on running, she’ll be at least partially to thank for your resilience. Make no mistakes.

And if you do, learn from them.

Love,

Mama

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The space between notes.

If Claude Debussy were still alive, he’d have turned 151 this week. I know because those clever cats over at the Google informed me with the likes of their own animated banner: “Google” beneath the light of a full moon and set to a backdrop of the melody I’ll never hear again without remembering the times Elbee and I spent in that rocking chair listening to a steady rotation of the “five timeless lullabies” spewing forth from the likes of her musical sound machine. It turns out that after six months of listening to the very same mix while rocking a baby through nap time, “Clair de Lune” was the only song on that prescribed playlist that I could still tolerate. (Apologies, Beethoven.)

Back before she toddled (strike that, walked! strike that, ran!), back before she identified your “ba-by” by name, waved hello to dogs and could pinpoint letters of the alphabet, back before she gestured “no” with a shake of a head and “yes” with a nod, she was, herself, a “ba-by.” I was, myself, tired. I was tired of rocking my way though nap time. And so I longed for the glorious day when she’d put herself down for a snooze while I washed some dishes and listened to unedited hip hop on our iHome.

The day came. I didn’t know it was the day. I just reveled in how comfortably she slept while I dusted the furniture and watched the news. And then it happened again the next day and the day after that. And so on and so on. And then I returned to work and Elbee went off to “school” (which might maybe be a euphemism for “daycare”), and somebody named “Miss Jen” (whose first name is “Miss” or, if she has a last name, I don’t know it), helped orchestrate nap time. I haven’t listened to “Clair de Lune” on that musical sound machine in a very long while. I never rocked my “ba-by” to sleep again.

Partly, I miss the quiet loveliness of the times we spent in that rocking chair, the afternoons my arms went numb for the dead weight of a sleeping child. I’m sorry I was almost too tired to appreciate, in those first days/weeks/months, that whereas arm-napping goes the way of crawling, and the life cycle of baby to toddler is seriously so short, I should wake up and pay attention. Partly, I’m sad I only get to do this once. Mostly I’d never have it any other way. The remainder, I’m grateful I got to do it at all.

It’s supposed to be like this. Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.” Birth, death, the song in between. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. That sort of thing. In less than a handful of years, my kid’s going to go off to kindergarten. She’ll need me less than now but more than when she’s a teenager (or maybe she’ll just need me differently), and Debussy’s skeleton will celebrate its 155th birthday in Paris.

Until then, I’m counting on the ordinary stuff from today becoming the extraordinarily beautiful memories of tomorrow. Today, after work, we three went for a walk. I slipped out of my heels. I wore bedroom slippers with my dress clothes. My feet hurt. Elbee spent 15 minutes chasing stranger-babies in the park. Her park. (She has a park the way some kids have back yards.) And when she seemed ready, we turned in the direction of home. I asked her what sound a cow makes. She said moo. Her dad and I clapped emphatically. She clapped for herself. It was the first time she said moo. And I hoped that come the second or third or tenth time she said it, it’d still be so freaking awesome.

I figure someday she’ll say something more profound. Today, though…today, I’ll try not to rush it. To moo, baby girl!

Posted in Parenting/Toddler | 2 Comments

On having cake and eating it, too.

Two Saturdays ago, Elbee turned one to as much fanfare as any kid, who won’t remember a single thing that happened to her that day, can possibly imagine. We bought her a string of fine pearls: her first wedding present or, if she thinks marriage is shit for the birds, that fancy thing she wears because it’s Tuesday and she’s fabulous. We rented out an indoor play space. I crafted party decorations and made a carefully-organized playlist of songs I could hardly listen to for the way they took me back to driving home from the hospital or rocking a newborn or launching into spontaneous dance to quiet an impending crying jag. The Papa Progenitor hired a photographer I didn’t know about until we pulled into the parking lot and saw her standing there with a zoom lens. Elbee’s great-grandmothers (along with over 30 other people we genuinely like) showed up to help celebrate. And there was cake. Lots of it.

There was the cake we ordered for guests: a tallish rainbow confection topped with gum balls, that was met with the ooohs and ahhhs you’d expect when you pay someone to make cake fancy.

And then there was the other one: The one I made myself just for Elbee because we couldn’t identify a single baker in all of Boston whom we trusted well enough to cook sans our daughter’s allergens. So I took a stab at it, and my handiwork vaguely (or quite accurately) resembled unicorn poop crushed below the heel of a nasty-ass giant. It was a multi-colored caketastophe.

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I might have appreciated the shear irony of the whole situation a little sooner if I could have stopped myself from wondering, even for a moment, how something that was supposed to go so very right could possibly go so totally wrong.

Instead, I thought to last July 11. That was the Wednesday after the Sunday we noticed a not-insignificant amount of blood in Elbee’s poo, the Wednesday after the Monday Baby-Daddy returned to work, the Wednesday after the Tuesday on which Elbee was diagnosed with food allergies and allergic colitis, the Wednesday Elbee choked on her own vomit and I joined the ranks of parents who get to save their kids’ lives. (To be clear, giving back-pats to an actual baby is nothing like the synthetic one on which you practice to get that wallet card that says you’re CPR-certified.) And that was only the beginning.

Elbee cried often, laughed rarely and hurt much. We learned she suffered from serious GERD. Nearly once a day for the next couple of months and a few times a week after that until she was no less than seven months old, and despite an aggressive regimen of grown-up medicines and consults with some of the best doctors in the world (literally), our kid projectile vomited whole meals, gagged on purees and puffs, developed texture aversion and, finally had the good sense to reject all but a bottle of a hypoallergenic, pre-digested formula which is, largely, still as much as she eats. At 10 months old, she was enrolled in a clinic for children with feeding disorders. She doesn’t self-feed bottles or sippie cups. She refuses most food offered to her by her parents. (She associates us with meal-time trauma because we had the misfortune of being with her when she experienced it. It might have been a daycare worker or a grandparent, but it wasn’t. It was us. And, to be fair, mostly it was me. Post-Traumatic Feeding Disorder is a thing. A real thing.) Elbee’s never tasted a baby biscuit or a bit of mac-n-cheese, never picked at a piece of toast or enjoyed an ice cream cone. And then there’s this: Docs suspect so much stomach acid may have deadened her taste buds so she may not even be able to taste (and therefore, can’t really enjoy) what she’s eating. “Yummy” ain’t no thang.

The cake – despite all this – was supposed to be wonderful. It was supposed to be the sort of confection fit for a kid who would eat it, even though we suspected she wouldn’t. (We didn’t care.) There had to be a cake. It had to be awesome. And making it was supposed to restore a little normalcy to the lives of folks for whom the word “normal” was maybe a little like, well… “yummy.”

Ingredients: Heaps of love, loads of heart, a dash of a hope. Blend. Set oven to, “F— off, universe.” Yield: Catharsis.

This one time, we took our kid to back-up care. We warned all of the teachers there that, though our child was seemingly plenty old enough to feed herself and wildly intelligent, and though she possessed superior fine motor skills, she was unable to handle her own bottle. Later, one of them laughed as she recounted the way Elbee sat across from her on the floor, mouth open to indicate it was time to eat. She likened our daughter to a “baby goat.” She was unthinking. (That’s euphemistic for “dumb ass.”) She was like lots of people. Enter the laundry list of folks who, though with the purest of intentions, and, sometimes, even when they know better, or even when they know nothing, reassure us our daughter will – without question – be well. Usually, their kids were “picky eaters,” too. And usually, by repositioning a spoon or heating food to the right temperature or carefully-timing meals, they developed voracious appetites. They “just grew out of it.”

But dollars to donuts their children – who, while they may have consumed nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a whole week that once when they were little –  never formed a spontaneous play group in  the waiting room of a feeding clinic, sharing a sensory table with their best new friends: a couple of bitchin’ cool kids with high-functioning autism and GI tubes. We’re not somehow worse off. We’re just different. And, hell, maybe those peanut butter and jelly kids are in a bad way. Maybe they’re boring.

“Normal” ain’t no thang.

The more I stared at that cake, the more I knew it was true. It looked like shit. And worse, it didn’t even taste that good. So I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. I laughed like someone crazy. Like someone on the brink. I laughed because it was funny and because I couldn’t believe my eyes. I laughed because I could. I laughed because it was the night before the party and much, much too late to do anything about it save embrace my reality. Surely a photo of this confection-passed-through-the-ass-of-a-unicorn would go absolutely viral on Cake Wrecks! I’d be so proud. Or, if not proud, I’d have a good story.

The next day, we bequeathed to our daughter a string of fine pearls. We jazzed up the likes of that indoor play space with the crafts I made myself. We switched on the playlist of special songs (Dylan’s “Forever Young,” Tom Petty’s “Wild Flowers,” a disco remix of “‘C’ is for Cookie,” the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Damn straight, Mick Jagger.) The incomparable Nitya Rao took photographs. Elbee’s great-grandmother delighted in the spectacle. (Elbee really learned to walk that morning!) And, at last, it was time.

So we gathered around a long table to sing “Happy Birthday” to a kid who probably didn’t even realize the whole day was for her, and we went through the motions of presenting her with the shitty ass cake we didn’t expect her to touch but hoped she might.

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And then we watched, with bated breath, as this happened.

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And then this.

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And this.

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And this.

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Later that afternoon, she’d cry because I offered her some applesauce. It didn’t matter. I’d think back to that morning and the way that something that was supposed to go so very right really did. Even when it looked all wrong.

“Wrong” ain’t no thang.

Ingredients: Heaps of love, loads of heart, a dash of a hope. Blend. Set oven to, “F— off, universe.” Yield: Catharsis. 

Which looks like this: Unicorn poop crushed below the heel of a nasty-ass giant (or the palm of a small human).

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Nine turns one.

Dear Kid,

Last weekend, we put our memories to rest in a tupperware container tucked below a rock on a hillside in a nature preserve. Embryo 10 was among them in a metal-tipped catheter inscribed with our medical record number and the date it first entered storage: 08/06/2011. Embryo 10: The baby we only ever got to know in our imaginations.

Before we did, we let you hold it, and we told you the story of how the essence of you lived this once in a little blue straw, pinched at the end and marked with the number “9.” The reason some other kid wasn’t holding the memory of you that day had everything to do with natural selection and that scientist’s determination that embryonic you was of superior quality to “10” and, therefore, would be more likely to result in a viable pregnancy.

I don’t know about that, but I got pregnant. And I was glad.

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Now you won’t remember our talk or the way I told you I was happy you were “9.” And maybe, someday, when I recollect for you that day in the forest, you’ll think it sounds kind of strange: burying memories the way some folks bury their dead. Mostly, though, I hope you find it sort of beautiful.

Created ritual.

We made a long paper chain and, on each link, penned the names of babies we’d lost or decided not to know because we were content with our family of three. On each end, we attached additional links to represent your dad and me. And then we counted to the middle and added a third for you. Whether by the hand of the Great and Powerful G-d or some cosmic coincidence or nothing of the sort, and without any forethought or advance planning, the middle link belonged to your one-time womb mate, “Zoe.” I might have been surprised. But I wasn’t. Not even a little.

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We said Mourner’s Kaddish and asked G-d to bring us peace from Heaven, but the truth is, kid, sometimes I think we make our own.  And that’s precisely what we did that day. We returned to a place of hopelessness and despair and chose to see it differently. It was different. Because we were.

This time, we were your parents.

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In parting, you babbled a string of consonants and vowels that might have been a beautiful eulogy or a lot of nonsense. And we waved “bye-bye” to Embryo 10 and that place and the box full of memories that first made us Mama, Papa and Elbee. And we wandered down that hillside, Dad and I wondering out loud how our mystery became a baby and then a toddler like you.

Probably, it had something to do with time. And long naps in a rocking chair. Midnight bottles. Lullabies. Diaper explosions. Sickness. Health. Trips to the beach. The best laid plans. Splishy-splash. Boynton books. “Soggy Froggy.” Tweet, tweet goes the birdie! Carriage rides. The Cookie Monster. First flights. Petting puppies. Dance parties. Day care. Swings. Slides. Swim class. Beebo. Nature. Maybe even your mom and dad.

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We did it, baby girl. And probably we’re just getting started.

Happy birthday, Elbee K.

Ever,

Mama

Posted in Infertility, Parenting/Toddler | 1 Comment

A letter to my Lorax on the first week of daycare.

Dear Kid,

On the day after my first Mother’s Day, I ended my nearly 11-month stint as your “stay-at-home” mama. (“Stay-at-home” because, if we’re being honest, I stayed at home rarely on account of you wouldn’t let me. The outside beckoned.) I returned to work on Monday because I had no choice. Also, I really, really wanted to.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t have relished a little more time together, just the two of us. We’d already had more than most people, and we’ll have more later, I know. It’ll just happen on the weekends. And, the thing is, even if we had the rest of our lives to play and laugh and cry and explore, it probably wouldn’t be enough. When it came time to say goodbye, I’d still miss you.

You won’t remember the last 11 months, and I won’t forget them.

We started taking walks together when you were five days old. Through most of New England’s sweltering hot summer and breezy fall and icy winter and rainy spring, there were only a handful of days we missed. I watched as your sleepy eyes became more alert, staring inquisitively at the trees overhead, pointing at them, waving at them, talking to them in a language that sounded like celebration…happy because brown branches turned green, happy for their shade, happy for the birds, happy for nature’s mobile. You noticed things I failed to see, and you made me see them.

Once below a heavy, gray sky, I kept walking because you kept smiling until, a half-hour’s fast-paced run from our front door, it started to rain, pour, thunder. So I covered your carriage with a rain guard, and I ran. I ran and I ran and I ran. Screaming. Soaked to my underwear. And, because you had no choice, you ran with me. Laughing. Dry except, perhaps, for your diaper.

Another time, we came upon a Parks and Rec employee trimming back the branches of a low-hanging tree along our usual route. You burst into tears as if he’d nicked you with his gardening shears. Inconsolable. I knew you knew that tree. (Maybe you didn’t recognize it, per se, but you knew it like you knew all of them.) And so, without a second thought about how crazy I must have sounded, I was hollering for him to stop from 500 feet away. “Stop, stop! Wait! Don’t cut that tree!” To which he replied, in the native Boston accent that won’t sound like much of an accent to you, “Why not?” And I answered, running toward him, “Because it’s important!” To which he retorted, “Lady, it’s a f—in’ tree!” To which I responded, “It isn’t to her.” Which is when he really looked at you and put down his gardening shears. “Oh,” he said. He promised you he wouldn’t hurt the tree anymore and he gave you a piece of it to take with you. Your tears stopped like the flick of a switch as you stared at that big red leaf. As we walked on, I looked back now and again at the befuddled man who, hands on hips before the tree, found himself unable to continue his work…or the very decent man who waited until we were out of sight to do it. When we got home, I tucked the leaf away in the pages of a law school casebook where maybe one of us will wonder someday why we kept it. It won’t be me. I already know.

The thing that pained me most about our new reality was that feeling I knew was truth: You wouldn’t spend so much time outdoors. You’d miss the trees. And I’d miss you.

But if there’s one thing I learned over the course of our approximately 332 strolls together, it’s that, kiddo, the seasons (the ones that turn the leaves colors and the ones that see us grow up) turn, turn, turn. In this season, we learn to walk alone. Literally in the sense of first steps. Figuratively in the sense of spending so much time apart from that little/big person in whose face the sun rose and set every day since the day we met.

We’re just like the trees, honey child. We’re just like the trees. We keep right on growing, right on changing, right on weathering storms and being magnificent until the day we die. So, to this season and the next one and the one after that, I trust our little family will still be something to behold. And I trust we’re going be just fine.

Love,

Mama

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