Oh, my baby,
How did we get to a year already?
Well, we didn’t, really. That is, we have survived the full, requisite 365 days – a full rotation around the sun – a pass through all the necessary calendar pages and Zodiac signs – but you and I, together, we’ve still only had about nine months of real time together. The rest was stolen from us both, right at the beginning, and while I’d rather not bring those memories in to your birthday letter, I also can’t avoid them. It was there, it happened, and everyone around us continues to heal and grieve and cope in their own ways.
The good news is, you and I have figured each other out just fine. You know exactly who Mama is, and right on schedule you have decided that it’s a crime against humanity for Mama to attempt to sneak more than five feet away from yourself. Now that you’ve learned that there’s a difference between Mama and you, you’re not so crazy about this Mama-mobility stuff. How unfair that she can dare to step away from me, you announce, how existentially incorrect that this person from whom I derive my identity and who feeds me most often can cope with the idea of using the bathroom without me, though so far you’re sticking to pretty simple actual words and signs.
(Remind me, won’t you? Remind me that I spent some days practically counting the minutes until I could pry you – gently, but a firm pry nonetheless – off of my leg and tiptoe to the nearest quiet, dark spot to have just five minutes alone. Because I can never be sure what I’ll remember on my own, anyway, now that my post-coma brain has been rewired just a little differently – and chances are I’ll forget that desperation to catch a break from your constant, intense adoration in the same way that I forgot how much I needed a break from Emily and Jacob… just as soon as they figured out that they could handle a break from me.)
Somehow, though, you’ve never yet given me more than I could handle. With each of your siblings, I remember long days home alone with the baby, and finally reaching that point where the very best I could do for my beloved little cherub was to gently lie them in their cribs, walk firmly out of the room, close the door, and go as far away as I needed to go until I couldn’t hear them scream anymore. I always came back, but while they viewed those moments as the utmost in betrayal, I recognized them for what they were: the only way that child and I were going to survive the day without coming to the attention of some sort of state agency.
I don’t know if you truly don’t cry as much, or maybe my patience has increased, or something less wonderful like my hearing has finally gotten bad enough or I’ve lost track of those special days with you… but I truly believe that our times together have been more placid. Something inside your soul recognizes how damaged and scarred mine has become, and you emerged from the womb knowing how to get your needs met without endangering my already-sketchy sanity.
Isaac, you’re so, so sweet-natured and chill. Thank you. I don’t know how we would have survived any of the past year if you weren’t such an easy baby. It’s all relative, of course, because there’s no such thing as a truly easy baby… but on the grand scale of babies, your relaxed attitude about everything from feedings to diaper changes to car rides is truly legendary.
Early on, you were so quiet that I had to check, constantly, to make sure I didn’t forget you somewhere, as I was trying to run errands or just go for a walk. I would reach out, from the driver’s seat or from the stroller handles, and just touch your forehead. Just a quick sweep of the downy hair on your head, and you would always, never fail, turn your head just a little, into my touch. Not just a reflex, but a deliberate repositioning in response. That has eased off, some, as you have gotten older and more talkative, but you still turn into me in your sleep.
It’s the little things, like that. Like the fact that I remembered, even during those dark, early, hard days, to put your entire foot inside my mouth while I still could. You’re only one now, but there’s no way I could cram one of those suckers in anymore.
Like the fact that we wake with each other, every day, even when we’re in separate rooms; I’m sure it’s a case of you making little noises and me making little noises and the two of us slowly engaging into awareness of another day, but it feels like serendipity, every time, that you’re ready to go just at the same time I am. Particularly considering that I don’t exactly start each day revved up and raring to go.
Those little things are what I struggle to remember, when other things still, stubbornly insist on fading into the back of my mind before I can even grab at them. Because, at the end of the day – or, in this case, the first year – those are the things that separate our lives from any other lives on this planet of seven-billion-any-day-now. Everyone wakes up, starts their day, follows their routine, winds down, and sleeps again, but it’s the details we fill in that matter.
And oh, how your details have saved me this year, little man. The dimple up at the corner of your eye, your persistence on smiling at me on the darkest mornings, your utter delight in figuring how a new way to use a toy, your fundamental inability not to dance whenever there’s any sort of music in the house… that’s what makes us, us.
If I don’t remember to thank you enough for being you, and for pulling me through by your simple gorgeousness, thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without you, this year.
I love you, sweet boy. Let’s have a better second year, shall we? Because, between us – the things we did together, the time we spent, the bond we share – those things were pretty damn good the first year. Now it’s just a case of making more of the external details shine.
Love, love, love,