Yesterday, we invited two old friends of mine into our home for a few hours. And by “old,” I mean that, with the exception of my cousins, these are my very oldest friends. I’ve known them most of my life. That said, I haven’t seen them in twenty years and we’ve kept in touch mostly through the magic of Facebook, which basically means not at all. I’m a naturally shy and reserved person and felt a mix of fear, nerves, anxiety, and sheer dread as I awaited the arrival of, essentially, two people (and their spouses) who were now strangers to me. And so it was a relief to realize that somehow knowing someone in your earliest, most innocent and precious years connects you for life. There was no awkwardness or discomfort; we talked for nearly four hours straight and could have kept going, if it were not for the bedtimes of my children.
As they walked out our front door to return to their hotel, it occurred to me that, had I not moved hours away from them before the start of middle school, we probably would have remained dear friends for all of my life. It’s a little sad to think what I may have missed out on.
Do you keep in touch with your childhood friends? Are you still close to them now?
On Saturday, our family of five drove three hours one way for my niece’s birthday party. Cah-razy. But it was a fun event at a cool pizza parlor that had bumper cars, a bouncy house, a ginormous play structure (I can’t even adequately describe to you how BIG it was or how HIGH those slides were) and a small corner filled with a bunch of toys for the littlest ones.
My two-year-old, however, wanted nothing to do with that corner and, instead, really, really wanted to play on that play structure that was “recommended” for four and up. And at the same time, there were so many big kids there and it was such a confusing maze inside, she was scared to go alone. So we asked her five-year-old sister if she might be willing to take Skittle along with her and wouldn’t you know it, she said yes with such gusto, that alone was shocking as she is the type of kid who typically says no to any request we make on principal alone, I think.
And then we watched as those two sisters spent the next two hours climbing up and sliding down that play structure together, working as a team to help little Skittle get from one tall platform to the next (Cupcake would go first and then slide her arms under Skittle’s armpits and pull her up), relying on one another to find their way through the maze of colorful steel pipes, trusting each other totally. It brought tears to my eyes to see and made every squabble over who would hold my left hand and which DVD we would watch on the drive home worth it. For those two hours, they were sisters, partners, and best friends. It was the most beautiful thing.
It was this day, ten years ago, that my husband and I went on our first date. We shared two classes that semester, my final one, at college and he chased me down after History & Structure of the English Language to ask me to Starbucks. I was not looking for love — and in fact, was actively trying to avoid it — and had spent nearly every day for the last two weeks (or more?), attempting to find alternative ways to walk to/from class so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him, who was nothing if not blatantly obvious in his intentions. But he was bold and he was persistent and I was too nice to say no, so I obliged. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s been quite a decade. We have gotten engaged, gotten married, adopted a dog, suffered through months of infertility treatments, moved to another state, bought a house, brought three new lives into the world, and said good-bye to a tiny embryo that never got the chance to live. We have traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, California, London, and Australia. We have graduated college, ended old friendships, began new ones, lived through week-long power outages, told my mother about the abuse I suffered as a child, paid off our student loans, quit jobs and started new ones (many, many new ones), and purchased two new vehicles.
I’m thankful for it all, the good and bad and most of all that my husband saw my value and worth — my potential — all those years ago, long before I ever saw it myself.
Tomorrow, an old professor of mine will be coming for a visit. He and his wife are in town, passing through after weeks of travel in Asia, and asked to stop by. My husband and I first met in this professor’s class long ago (almost exactly ten years ago if we want to talk specifics) and he came to our wedding. He is a bit of an odd duck, but he is very dear to us.
But suddenly, I am wishing we were more successful and doing something of value with our college degree. I’m wishing we had a bigger house and our children were better behaved. I don’t know why the opinion of this man from our past matters at all, but it does. I want to impress him. I want to still be one of his favorites. I want him to look at us, nod and think to himself, “I done good.”
That’s what I’d really like, but I’d settle for my 5-year-old, who doesn’t possess a single shy bone in her body and has NO filter whatsoever, behaving like the polite, delightful, poised young lady that I know she can be if she tries very, very hard. And please, my darling girl. Please. Whatever you do, please don’t talk about my vagina.
Motherhood is feeling hard lately. Over the weekend, I tried and FAILED to get the baby to nap in his bassinet rather than the swing or bouncer, which led ME to feeling like a big, fat failure (because apparently my self-esteem is so deeply entangled with my children and their behavior and cooperation?) and also led me down a slippery slope of “What if he NEVER naps in his bassinet? What if he stops napping at all? What if I’m setting up bad sleep habits? What if none of us ever get good sleep AGAIN?!”
So rather than dwell on those difficult, exhausting moments, I’m trying to remember that there is beauty and bliss in every dark corner along this parenting journey. Like when the baby is fussing for his mama and the moment I lean over to speak to him, his mouth becomes a wide, open smile, all gums and chubby, pink tongue. Or when the two-year-old is crying because I said no to using markers right now and I ask if she wants a hug and, with a pouty lip, she says, “Yesssshhh,” and throws her plump arms around my neck, so tight that if I were a cartoon, my eyes would bulge. Or when I brought home a cheap Anna and Elsa book for the five-year-old and she said, “Oh, thank you, Mama! Thank you, thank you, THANK you!” while clutching her book to her chest and dancing around the room, and then I knew exactly why, finally, I had given in and surrendered to the Frozen craze that I had been trying to avoid.
Or like today, when I accidentally stumbled upon a newborn photo of said five-year-old:
and I suddenly remembered how this whole journey begins. With them so tiny, so new, so very fresh from God.
My girls awoke and got dressed and had breakfast, but they also had a special ornament and treat waiting in their shoes for St. Nicholas Day.
We went to church, but instead of sitting in the sanctuary, we went to the Great Room for the children’s Christmas program.
And though I got up and fed my baby and put on lip gloss and my black boots like I so often do, there was a sadness that hung over me like a winter fog, a sadness that ran deep and couldn’t be defined or explained.
Until I walked into our bathroom and saw this necklace, waiting to be worn:
and I remembered. That second birthstone…the blue, December one…was a baby, a baby who never got to be born and was due — due to be held, due to be loved — three years ago yesterday.
I was sad and while my head briefly had forgotten why, my heart did not.
I went to see my OB for my postpartum check-up today. I know Poppy was born a whole six weeks ago and the “fourth trimester” continues for yet another six weeks, but seeing my doc made me feel like my pregnancy and postpartum period is officially over. I’m sad.
I’m obviously so glad my baby is here, but I’m sad the magic, mystery, and anticipation of pregnancy is once again over. Sad that I won’t be back to visiting that office of wonder (and nerves and worry and stress) for another year, maybe more. Maybe never, if that’s what God and destiny decide. Sad that I don’t have an extra excuse to escape from my family once or twice or four times each month.
And sad that, soon enough, all of this will be over once and for all. Forever.