I love autumn. Back to school, the colors, the cardigans, scarves, and boots, Halloween, my birthday. My whole life I’ve begrudged my way through July and August in anticipation of late September and summer’s end. But if there are two things that make hot weather bearable it’s these: having survived a hot, hot, hot few months heinously pregnant, and being a mama to the best ever August born baby girl.
When we brought Miss E home from the hospital it was cooler than I’d ever remembered it being in the middle of August in the Ohio River valley. We opened the windows and doors at dusk and turned on the whole house attic fan, creating a pleasant draft that ruffled her wispy hair as she dozed in her Pack ‘n Play. The weather is just the same now, and I’m overcome with how near those first few days home with her still feel. How obsessed I was with the way she smelled (so good!), how frightened I was to be alone with her, how I would count to 150 when I rocked her to sleep as though arbitrary structure or superstition could ensure she stayed sleeping for more than 20 minutes.
Her first birthday was yesterday and I feel like I’m still working on the words to describe how I’m feeling, how I feel about her. I feel like I’m going to be working on them my whole life. A good friend gave her a book for her birthday that she said was for me, too, and that it would make me cry, Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born. So I put off reading it, but only for one day, settling down with her dad for her bedtime story last night. And while I was definitely moved by what she thought I would be – the sleeping, dancing bears, the whispering wind – it was this bit that made my heart swell:
For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will, not ever again…
It was the “not ever again.” Because it’s all of those moments we won’t ever share again, despite how excellent the ones ahead of us will be. It was thinking about how we celebrated her first birthday, and how it won’t ever be like it was on the day she was born. It won’t be about the moment I held her for the first time, when I looked into her eyes and I knew her but I didn’t know her. It won’t be about how much we wanted her, waited for her, planned for her and dreamed of her. With every year that passes my daughter’s birthday will be more about her, and less about the day we became a family. And that’s the way it should be, of course, but it saddens me, too, because I’ll be remembering her birth day. The close, quiet – after the getting born part was over – celebration that was the three of us marveling at each other. We looked at each other and the sun pinked the sky, rising and shining. It was a new day, and for us, a new way of living.