branching out

10:47 PM

No matter how many years go by the moment I hear the first five keys of "Easy Living" by Billie Holiday I'm instantly transported back... Back to that first September at the cabin. Before cable. Before wifi even. We had one car that Kevin took to work every day and there I was in a half empty house, covered in boxes and nothing but a record player to keep me company. So every day I would wake up, make myself a cup of coffee, pick out a handful of records and get to work unpacking. It was September in Virginia and the rain came down daily on that old roof of ours, making its own kind of music. There was one afternoon in particular where I just kept flipping the Billie Holiday record over and over as I stacked plates, mugs and bowls into cabinets. A candle flickered, raindrops lazily slid down the windows and I felt like life just couldn't get any better. And yet... something was stirring. Not exactly unrest, but an anxious sort of excitement over a little something that was bobbing up and down on the horizon.
Turns out that "little something" was a bald, dark eyed and absolutely perfect little girl. Gone were the days of puttering around the house as I pleased. Gone was the slow pace of life I had come to enjoy. Instead the very oxygen in the cabin was replaced by the spirit of a girl that I'm sure will light up every room she enters her whole life. She was everywhere - from the piles of laundry that sat on the sofa way too long, to the boxes of take-out in the trash to the pacifiers, bottles, diapers, blankets, hats, wipes and tiny onesies that seemed to turn up just about everywhere. At times I felt overwhelmed by it all, the newness, the way it felt like being thrown out of orbit. Everything was new, my whole life felt like being stuck at the peak of the learning curve. I'll never forget the bitterly cold morning I braved taking her to the park by myself only to be reduced to tears while trying, unsuccessfully, to collapse the stroller to the tune of my baby's hungry cries.
And I learned and messed up and learned some more and slowly but surely found my feet. We found our sweet spot, a routine that worked so well. And life began to slow down, to hum along to a new tune - a sweeter one. There were two of us now, it felt good. Felt right. And then as life would have it... a surprise. There would be another. We would do it all over again. The nine months of growing bigger and bigger. The sleepless nights. The tiny onesies. The bottles and pacifiers. One unseasonably warm October morning he arrives, my perfect little bird. We adjust again. Make room. Our hearts grow ten sizes.
The last two years have almost felt a blur - so many firsts. He rolls! He sits! He walks! He talks!! He climbs and breaks things! The crib is gone now, replaced by a second toddler bed. I no longer say "my baby and toddler." I have two now, two toddlers that is. They sleep together, eat together, bathe together and lord knows they fight together too. And make the most hideous messes. And make their mama quite literally pull her hair out. Often in the last twelve months I would wonder if this is one of those "it gets worse before it gets better" moments of child rearing. The bedtime routine was killing us, the weaning off the pacifier and bottle was killing us, the fighting was killing us. Some days I felt like all I did was discipline and clean.
Then whispers of autumn danced across the tree tops and with the drop in temperatures came a change. Almost imperceptibly Teddy acquired quite a hefty vocabulary. He was no longer grunting as a way of making his requests known. He could now request a "don-dut" and "sack" (also known as donut and snack). He could say no and yes and "kawwy meeee" for when he didn't feel like going down the stairs. This discovery was like a magical salve that their brother-sister relationship desperately needed. Instead of starting the morning screaming at each other Birdie will now walk up to Teddy and say "Come on Teddy let's go play in our room," he'll bellow "OKAYYY!!" and they'll walk off hand in hand. And I will be undone. Again and again. I will come undone again as I walk up to the door of the nursery at night and hear them talking to each other, mostly Birdie talking and Teddy just saying "I do!!! Okay!!! Yeah! I do!!" And I am undone every Tuesday and Thursday when they greet each other after Birdie comes home from school with the most heartbreaking embrace and race upstairs to play in their room.
Every day now I feel like I'm needed less and less. I still have it in my mind that "perhaps I can squeeze in some laundry while they nap" but it turns out I can do laundry while they're awake. And I can meal prep too, do work, clean and occasionally even read or write. And the funny this is it's bittersweet. I desperately look forward to morsel of "me time" and yet every time I find myself with a free hour or two I feel out of place in my own skin. I haven't "rocked a baby" in months, in fact it's rare I carry either one of them. I no longer spend 45 minutes of my day mixing homemade goat milk formula. The swaddle blankets lie in plastic bins in our garage and I'm getting six to seven hours of sleep every night. And I love it, but I miss it too. Can you feel homesick for a time instead of a place? Because every so often I miss the weight of a baby in my arms. I miss the way their neck smells and those gummy smiles. I wouldn't trade what we have for anything but I'll always love what we had too. Even if I took it for granted when I had it.
So when the sky was gray the other day and that familiar tune trickled out of my iphone while my two kids fought over the red crayon in jar that had about a dozen I had to smile. How far we have come. How much has changed. And I still feel like life couldn't get any better... Though I suppose I could use a few more whole crayons.

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