This is Childhood

5 years ago

From my earliest days I can remember fearing loss and mourning things in the height of celebration—it’s a manifestation in tears of a profound love for life and preoccupation with its fleeting nature. Many times it’s made me feel broken, why can’t I just enjoy a moment? Why must I always look just past now to this won’t always be?

This tendency toward sentimentality often comes through in my writing. A few weeks ago I receive an email from Lindsey, a friend I’ve made through blogging. Over the years we’ve connecting in comments, virtual nods and hugs, I’ve discovered something that I never imagined I would find. Lindsey drinks a similar cocktail of joy and melancholy.

When she asked me to participate in a writing series called, “This is Childhood,” I felt flutters of excitement. Right now the girls are 4 1/2, 6 1/2 and 8. They are changing so quickly and, behind us trail the days of onesies and nursing, of baby carriers and diaper bags. There are times when my longing for those days pierces me and the truth of my passage beyond the baby years stings. The next mamas will be my babies, I will be a grandma and the day everyone warned would come, the day that this time really is over, will have arrived. Then I realize that what will also come will be new friendship, new layers to the fantasies I had as I watched their little legs kick and the way they worked to form their lips into shapes that would produce sounds.

I know intimately that each stage really is the best because it is. Because it means that I am living with these souls who carry a part of me and so much more—new talents, unfamiliar quirks, irresistible challenges and delights. All of this is why I am so excited to be a part of a series, of a group of women who, on each Tuesday, will present a narrative of an age.

Age 1 by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Age 2 by Kristen Levithan

Age 3 by Nina Badzin

Age 4 by Galit Breen

Age 5 by Allison Slater Tate

Age 6 by Bethany Meyer

Age 7 by Tracy Morrison

Age 8 by me and inspired by Briar

Age 9 by Denise Ullem

Age 10 by Lindsey Mead

The chance to visit and in some ways revisit an age or to look ahead and experience through the perspective of another parent what that best age is, well it just feels like a priceless passport for knowledge and compassion. Age 8 will be Briar. The place where she and I are now is new, changed and yet somehow still very much fitting into the rhythm that she and I have created over the years. I asked how she would feel about me writing about her.

“Well, what sorts of things will you say?” she asked with winsome smile, her bangs swooping down over her eyes.

“Well, I think I’ll talk about how fearless you are, the way some things scare you and other things don’t. I’ll probably talk about how you surprise me, how you are so funny and so smart. Would that be ok?”

She shakes her head moving her bangs not away from her eyes, but in fact making them flutter even more heavily upon her eyelashes. Eight is flirting with defiance as she knows I prefer being able to see her eyes. “Will you say other stuff? Like will you say anything about my ukelele?”

“Of course, but I think I’d want to explain that sometimes you get frustrated. Is that ok?” I watched her consider it.

She reached out and ran a finger along her iPod. She turned back to me and brushed her bangs away from her face. She fixed her pale blue eyes on me and said, “That would be ok mom, I mean it would be really great. I love that you are going to write about me. Your writing is important to you and you make me feel important when you put me in your writing.”

My nose stung and the lump in my throat felt impossibly large. I had a summer blockbuster quality montage pass before my eyes.

I saw Sean’s face in the delivery room.

I saw the doctor placing her on my chest.

I saw her lip synching in the playroom

and I watched her walking in the doors to kindergarten.

“Oh, honey, you were what made me start writing. You are my inspiration. Always, my first baby, Briar, even when you are big.”

I hope that you will come on Tuesdays and read the stories. Some days they will be from me, other times I’ll be pointing you to someone else, but always they will be about the best age.



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