One is the only number to your life and your body and if I could make a shape for this number and for you I would make it a circle. Here we are again on October 17, where the sun warms up the earth for the middle of the day but it is colder and…
Maybe it takes watching childhood unfold again to realize how much magic was in yours. And maybe the only way to really know it was magic is to watch it as a grown up.
Everyone says, hold onto this time. Don’t let it slip through your fingers like sand, because before you know it, it will be gone, and all you will have are the grainy pieces that stuck to your skin to remember it by. But I look at my parents and Andrew’s parents, and I wonder if maybe the next thing isn’t to be feared as much as I think. Maybe the Neverland Years have even more magic in them as a grandparent. Maybe, when I watch June’s babies, and see their childhoods unfold yet again, I’ll discover that there are more secrets and mysteries that I did not catch because I of the times I was busy catching runny noses and cleaning dishes.
What I am saying is this: maybe Neverland isn’t so much for the child as it is for the parent and the grandparent. Maybe it isn’t so much for the experience as it is for the memory. Maybe it really isn’t so far away.
My mom, who loves to garden, had three of her babies in the heat of the summer. The months of those years, when both the land and her belly was full and ripe, did not mix well with each other. She talks about the marigolds she planted those years—flowers that can withstand neglect and the scorch of the sun. My sisters and I were all born in the marigold season—into the warm dirt of the earth that grows, for a short season, against gravity—pushing up flashes of color and delicate petal that tell the air to make room.
Last summer, my garden grew wild, so that finding a harvest beneath the vines and thick leaves became a treasure hunt. I understood my mother then, because I was too tired to plant even marigolds over the thick curve of my budding stomach. This summer, my garden is tame and tall and it is my daughter who is wild—who cannot be still, who must reach for everything, who laughs and cackles and bangs and rolls, who wears every emotion like colors of the rainbow and shares each of them with us daily. She is a flash of orange shooting up toward the sun, and as we work in the garden— me digging up weeds and she trying to eat them— I pray this wildness will never, never be tamed.
The wildness and weightlessness have surprised me most about motherhood. I see it again when we are at the swings, while her plush white skin presses against black rubber and she looks at me with eyes that have swallowed the sky. Her fingers grip the sun-warmed metal, and she squeals every time the swing falls back toward me. Her entire consciousness is wrapped up in the moment— in the suspension between the ground and the air.
One of the best parts about our house has been the town we moved into. I am definitely a neighborhood gal— I love that we live in a completely walkable community, that I can go for days without getting into my car, and that the well-maintained sidewalks and underpasses make our town stroller-friendly. June and I have Borough pool passes and library cards which we use on a regular basis.
But the very best part about this town is our neighbors.
We have not met a person on our street that we have not liked. The people immediately surrounding us have gone out of their way to be friendly to us. Recently, Andrew and I have been saying to each other that we want to get to know everyone on our street. We’re realized there are two ways to do that. One is have a baby. The other is to give your house amazing curb appeal.
Which brings us to Operation Front Yard Face Lift.
Women arrive at motherhood in many ways and forms—sometimes through papers, sometimes tests, sometimes by just being in the right place for a person at the right time, but for me, motherhood came in the way of a chubby little bundle put on my chest at the close of a thirty hour labor, warm and perfect and beautiful. I remember just wanting to touch her, to look at her, to count her fingers and kiss her ears and hold her close because I had never, in my life, come so close to to the hand of creation. All I knew about my baby to that point was the way she liked to kick my ribs, that she was more active after I had ice cream, that she made me so big that even Andrew’s shirts were crop tops on me. Practically strangers, she and I, and yet I loved her helpless little body with a fierceness I could not express.
That day I fell in love with all things little.
The last seven months have been a collection of all that is little—little socks, little smiles, little fingermarks on my glasses. Little spoons now line the utensil drawer, little bath toys are strewn over the bathroom floor. Little reminders of the biggest love and she shows big excitement over the littlest things. Though motherhood is such a broad and diverse word, I think mothers of every kind are people who have learned to love the things that are little.
Peter** had the hands of a man who had spent decades working the earth and reaping its fruit. A farmer of potatoes and lavender, who knew how to till the ground and nourish the soil. He was a man who loved his wife, who, even years after she died, kept the doilies and flowery pictures up…
When June was born I remember thinking we would never make it to the six month mark, but then time sped up, went faster than those early days when we revolved around the minute, and here we are. Everything in our lives is different than it was before June. Our nights are different, our routines are different. Our house, once filled with calming grays, whites, and blues, is checkered now with the bright yellows and greens of the jungle gym and stuffed toys.
And every night, we put her to bed and somehow she wakes up bigger and more alert, funnier than she was the day before—so different, every morning, that I ask her where did you go in the night and what new place did you find in your mind that has shown you to be this much bigger on the outside? Where did you travel and what did you dream that it has changed who you are overnight?
I found an old photo yesterday—her and me, one of hundreds, maybe a thousand, of the she-and-me photos that chronicle the years of our friendship. I was cleaning out the guest room closet and stumbled upon my college memory box and there we were, forever frozen in pink fleeces, that piece of hair forever in my eyes, the sun forever making her squint. It’s from Mohegan Island, from the summer we spent in Maine, cleaning out old mansions, digging for rocks on the edge of the ocean, sitting on the splintered wood of the dock as we watched the sun went down, night after night. That day we took the ferry over in the early morning and I got seasick on the boat. Our legs, stuck forever in that moment, are tired from hiking all over the island. Alana had just found a tiny crab, living in its own pool, where he never had to think about the ocean or tides or even finding food because there, in that little cove, all his needs were met, and that’s kind of how we were that summer, suspended in our own tidal pool, cocooned between graduation and the real world.
I spoke with her yesterday. These days, it is not so often that we get an hour to speak to each other, because we are busy, with work and babies and writing and new friends and husbands. And it’s not even like we talk to each other and no time has passed because so much time is passed, and we feel the weight of the distance as our conversation is accented with “oh, I completely forgot to tell you,” and “you won’t believe what happened” but the familiarity is there, the comfort is there, and so while our words move quickly to cover all the gaps between us, another part of me relaxes because here I am safe. Here is someone I have called my friend for a decade, who has literally known me from the moment my parents stepped out of that dorm room and made me an adult.
I remember Alana talking about the sixth sense a lot that summer—how she wished she had a sense that would absorb the moment, that would soak it up, bottle it up for all it was, enjoy it at its fullest, ripest self. We were twenty one and twenty two, and already we understood how quickly life slips by, how you can blink and suddenly your college years are over and you are supposed to take all those classes, those relationships, those conversations, dance parties, mistakes, bad dining experiences, and use them to make something of yourself. But everything in our adult lives we had done together, and the moment we left the state of Maine, we were going to start doing them apart and it just felt like we needed to account for everything that had happened the last four years, because maybe if we could quantify and discuss it enough we could absorb it—maybe we could make it matter.
Last month we took our June bug on vacation to Savannah and Charleston, to soak up some sweet southern sunshine and stroll through some of the most beautiful streets in America. It was June’s first flight. Andrew and I love to travel. We both have flexible jobs, friends and family scattered across the globe. We…
My Dear June,
Today I stood in your nursery and watched the way the light made patterns on the wall and thought that if you were awake, you would have enjoyed watching it. And then I realized that it wasn’t too long ago that I had no idea the things you would like or what you would find interesting, and in just a few short months you have gone from a stranger to tiny human with likes and dislikes and a personality that is expanding and becoming more each day. I guess that’s what all this time we spend together will do—we’re learning each other, you and I, our patterns and rhythms and breaths and paces.
You sleep these days with your lips pursed—we call it your “June face”—with your hands tucked under your chins that are growing by the minute. When you wake up, you’ll stretch those hands high and wide for a full twenty minutes, and you’ll kick your legs and you’ll smile big and wide and finally, you’ll be ready to face the day—another day, when you will get bigger and longer and I will not notice because I will be so busy playing with you, calming you, changing you, feeding you—not until I pull out a favorite outfit from the closet and realize it is too tight around the waist, to short on those chubby legs of yours. Then I’ll fold that little outfit and put it away and try not to cry like I have been lately each time you outgrow a new thing, because I’m learning that each new day is like a thousand golden grains of sand slipping through my hands and I can’t catch or save them.