important nothings

This is the moment you’ll want to come back to

One of my most vivid memories from when I was growing up is something I said to myself as we drove out of our neighborhood, piled into my grandfather’s Suburban, listening to Patsy Cline cassette tapes and estimating our arrival time at the beach five hours away. It was a trip we took every summer, but I’d make packing lists and paper chain countdowns as though it were a once in a lifetime event, and I know I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, especially that feeling of anticipation when the car was loaded and we were on our way.

This is the moment you’ll want to come back to.

I knew that the beach trip would end, that we’d have to leave the sun and the sand and the waves and go back home to our regular everyday lives. It’s funny to me now that going to the beach for a week was such a big deal to me then. It certainly serves as a reminder that kids don’t require much in the way of excitement. A week crammed into a condo with family is easily magical.

Poor grammar and all, this sentence is one I’ve repeated again and again. I can remember thinking it as my parents drove away from moving me into the dorm, in the limo on the way to my wedding, every single time I’ve looked out of an airplane window at the start of an adventure. I thought it in the wee hours of the morning after my son was born, cradling him skin-to-skin and gazing out the window at the city lights downtown, feeling full of anticipation and excitement, knowing this was the most tangible start of an adventure I could witness, the literal start of someone’s whole life.

This is the moment you’ll want to come back to.

I’ve always had the advantage of observation in my life. I’m the third-born of three sisters (with a younger brother), and there was enough spacing in our ages that I’ve always been watching someone experience what is just around the corner for myself. My eldest sister gave me a cursory glance into what was coming. She was six years older, enough that I felt far removed from whatever she was doing, like it was way off on the horizon. But then my middle sister would step up just two years later, and I’d pay more attention, listening and watching carefully, not because I wanted to do everything the same way but because I liked having an idea of the various approaches. She graduated from high school the summer before I started, same with college. I always started something with at least an idea of what to expect.

Because of that, I’ve never needed the old ladies at the grocery store to advise me to soak in every minute with my children. If anything, I need reminders that I don’t need to document every moment. Now that I’ve had my second baby–and last, despite that never being my plan–I find myself staring at her face so diligently sometimes, as though I’m trying to memorize every inch of it the way it looks right now, today, when she was 24 weeks and three days old, and I have to remind myself to take a step back and just enjoy it without visions of a ticking clock over my shoulder.

And there’s so much to enjoy. We’re in the thick of the good old days over here. The little boy I cradled on my chest in the middle of the night is old enough for kindergarten this fall. We opted for pre-k instead, especially after the past year and its lack of normalcy, but it’s still the end of one chapter and the start of the next. Our stay-at-home years are over, and it’s hard but it’s also good. Things are supposed to change. Time is supposed to pass. Motherhood is not stagnant. There is a letting go.

And the next chapter is another good one. Now I’m home with another baby, a girl this time, one I didn’t know if I would get to have, and this time I know from experience and not just observation that these years will be good and hard and fly by.

I’ve reached a point I worked toward for a long time. I don’t mean motherhood, necessarily, although that was certainly much harder than high school biology books made it seem, and I hesitate to say this is the happiest I’ve ever been because the internet can be a mean place when a woman says how much she loves being a mother, how it’s increased her joy and purpose in life immeasurably, but when I think about how I used to long for a daily life that I looked forward to with the same anticipation as a big vacation, I realize that’s what I’m living now. I wake up with a sense of excitement for the day, I enjoy what I’m doing, and I fall asleep with a long list of what I’m grateful for. Nothing is perfect, nothing is exactly what I planned, anything could be on the horizon, but right here, right now is the happiest I’ve ever been. I hear my children’s voices and see their faces, and we settle into routines and make memories and listen to music and play and enjoy the completely mundane, and I hold their little hands that will be so much bigger just a few months from now and even bigger a few months after that, and each day feels like it was preceded by a paper countdown chain, like I’d waited for it for so long.

This is the moment you’ll want to come back to.

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