Last week I wrote about my youngest turning five. Her birthday has come and gone and I have to say this: I wish I could rekindle within myself the wholehearted joy of a small child on her birthday. There’s really nothing like it.
Except, maybe, for the joy you get as a parent watching your child experience that complete, perfect happiness. It is a vicarious joy, but even so it’s not diluted.
As parents, our minds are usually distracted, by deadlines and finances and leaky roofs; often we lack the ability to experience happiness without our worries niggling behind it. But I’ve noticed there is a sense of deep fulfillment, along with a feeling of powerful gratitude, when we know that we are able to give our children these moments of pure, unmarred joy.
So maybe I wouldn’t trade being 37 for being 5 after all.
In any case, our now-five-year-old had a wonderful birthday. She was excessively adorable —
But my favorite picture of the day is one of her with her sister —
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an image that sums up the feelings of the sister having the birthday and the sister NOT having the birthday quite as well as this one does.
Guess we can’t give all our kids pure joy all the time.
When any baby arrives, you know that she – and no other – was the person your family needed. Each child of any family, no matter the number, adds a new dimension, filling a space that was empty. But your last baby completes your family. She draws the final line of the cube; she is the last missing piece.
And while there is joy – and a measure of relief — to be found in this completion of your unit there is also a feeling of loss. Each milestone your last baby passes is the last milestone your family passes. Knowing this brings you a constant, often irritating, urge to feel the fullness of your time with your child: to burn the magical moments into your memory so that you never lose them.
On the other hand, that same urge to brand moments into your brain is also there when you are waking up every hour to nurse that last baby for seemingly endless months. It helps you “treasure” those less pleasant moments, like when that last baby turns two and finds the Sharpie you thought you hid, or when she turns three and you are carrying her kicking and screaming out of a store. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing you will never have to buy diapers again.
* * *
Today, my last baby turns five and the yearning to be able to bring back her babyhood, to revive the time when I was everything to her has been strong.
But I’m not giving in to it. Because this last baby of mine is becoming a person I want to know better. The depth and beauty of her personality are just beginning to show.
She has spirit and charm and an irresistible spark of impishness. Her voice is cartoonishly cute: sweet, with a hint of rasp, and she uses it all the time. She notices things that other people don’t. She craves the comfort of her parents’ arms, and she hugs her sister with crushing love. She does nothing by halves. She is kind and curious and spectacularly bright. She growls when she is angry. She has brilliant blue eyes, but it’s in her smile that you can see her soul.
She is my last baby, and today she is five. In a few short months, she will start kindergarten, where the path to independence begins. The heartstring connecting us will stretch, steadily, irreversibly, as she comes into herself.
The urge to etch moments into my memory won’t go away. I don’t want it to. There are years of last moments — precious and painful and irritating and fun – ahead of us.
Or, It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely ti-ime.
So, it’s been awhile. In fact, I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog nearly a year ago. It’s not as though I have hoards of fans who have been desperately awaiting another post from me, only to be disappointed again and again, slowly losing their will to live with each passing day of my absence from the world wide web. There is a good chance that I am the only person who has even noticed I haven’t posted in over a month. But even if no one else did, I happened to be very aware of my own absence, so here I am again, being present for myself, if that makes any sense at all.
In case my title didn’t make it obvious, the last month has been host to a multitude of distractions. First, there was the basement, where we discovered a leak and an increasingly strong musty, moldy smell. So we hired someone to come and check things out.
Hiring a basement waterproofing specialist was the obvious thing to do, but it resulted in a month of guilt, emotional turmoil, and marital strife. Because the guy who came to asses the situation in our basement was a Salesman who homed right in on me, my allergies, and my mother bear instincts, to the tune of a grand, “highly discounted because I feel so incredibly bad for you,” total of $16,000.
I almost escaped his sales pitch. He gave his initial spiel to my husband, and was about to leave, contract unsigned, when I came downstairs coughing.
“You have allergies, don’t you?” he said to me. “They are terrible; I had them awful when I was a kid. I feel for you, I really do.”
And that was all I needed. Everyone else in my family had lost whatever sympathy they might have had for me and my sniffling, coughing, and red, watery eyes back in March. But here, finally, was someone who noticed my misery. Someone who cared. Someone who wanted to make me feel better.
The Basement Guy went on to tell me that, basically, our basement was slowly killing me. According to him, we have a Mold Situation. He asked if our children had been sick a lot this year — they had — and suggested that it was our basement causing all their illnesses as well. The mold could be toxic, he told me, and, as it was so conscientious to remind me.
Also, he said, we have a crack. It could be nothing, but it could be something, too. According to him, this crack could gradually compromise the structural integrity of our house. Moreover, he said, the foundation was made of 1970’s concrete blocks, which, he said, are like the worst concrete blocks ever made in the history of concrete and that the ground water surrounding them was causing them to sweat their little concrete hearts out, creating an excessively humid environment. Ultimately, our basement should probably never even have been built and if we could, he would suggest that we move somewhere else.
Except that we won’t be moving anywhere else any time soon for anything less than a monumental reason. We have 14 years left on our mortgage. And he knew this because my husband told him so at the beginning of the consultation.
So, then, the only choice we have, according to him, was to close off our basement — which is the kids’ playroom, destroy all of the stuffed animals and dress up clothes we have stored down there, bleach everything else, and then have him and his company open up our floors (with the new carpet), remove and replace our entire existing drainage system, tear down our drywall to install some sort of NASA-engineered, space-age wall reinforcements, replace our sump pump, and install a $2,000, hospital grade, negative air system.
He made me promise not to let my kids play in the basement until his company could come and deal with the problem, and in my presence called the central office to see how soon he could schedule work on our “emergency situation.”
I, of course, was sold. He had me at the word “allergies”.
My husband, however, was not. He is the skeptic of the family, and he was not convinced. He suggested that I had been played by this guy, and that he was highly over exaggerating the case.
In hindsight, it is a good thing that my husband insisted on taking a few steps back and having more contractors come and look at our basement. At the moment, however, I was just a smidgen angry at him. These were OUR CHILDREN, we were talking about, after all. So there were discussions, and words were spoken, and we were all very stressed. And we still are because it’s been a month and, after having 4 companies come to evaluate the situation, we have yet to get one consistent response. Well, I guess I can’t say that. They all agreed that we will be spending lots of money in the near future. So at least we have that, right?
In the midst of all this, my two-year-old turned three and my five-year-old turned six. The little one finished her first year of preschool, and the big one graduated from Kindergarten and we had about one thousand different parties and events and meetings to attend.
The Little Birthday Girl
The Big Birthday Girl
And I experienced my yearly bout of nostalgia, when, with watery eyes, I watch each of my girls growing stronger and more independent while I try to remember exactly what it felt like to hold them with one arm, their heads on my chest, their little bottoms curved out, and their feet barely touching my lap.
So it’s been awhile. It’s been stressful and a little emotional and very, very busy, but I guess it’s really just been life.
Last week I turned 35. I wanted to write about it then, but I have been too busy doing things that 35 year old moms do, like chaperoning trips to the zoo, going to PTA meetings, and selling flowers for teacher appreciation week. It’s a gangsta life, people.
I went all sorts of hardcore when the flower people gave me 575 carnations instead of 600.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t take some time to celebrate. The night before my birthday, when my two-year-old was refusing to sleep (because otherwise, I’d have been in bed by 8 pm), I spent some time surfing the net on my iDevice, trolling some of my favorite sites. Like Michaels, and Kohls. I even splurged on something I’ve been wanting for a long time… a twee little castle for our fairy garden.
On sale for $9.99 at Joann’s, with $1.50 flat shipping. Who could resist?
And my celebrations weren’t limited to online shopping. The day after my birthday, I dragged my husband and daughter to the mall. I had a coupon for $10 off any $10+ purchase at JC Penney, and another one for $10 off any $25 purchase. That’s like money in your pocket!
So while my husband was taking the kid to ride the carousel, I was stalking the aisles of Penney’s, looking for the best way to maximize my coupon savings.
I saw this hot little number early in my scouting adventure, and I thought about buying it, just to be ironic. But then I realized that it was a junior sized cut, and that its snug contouring of the remnants of my mummy tummy would only look pathetic.
A Rebel Youth — who shops at Penney’s.
I finally ended up in the Jewelry department, checking out the 70+% off sterling silver collection, which felt like destiny. I walked out of the store with over $200 worth of silver earrings for a grand total of $18. It was a rhapsodic moment.
Hitting the age of 35 doesn’t carry with it any of the anxious anticipation or exuberance that distinguish the milestone birthdays of our younger years. In fact, I had expected it to be a difficult birthday, much like 30 was for me five years ago.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t. It just sort of happened, and I was content. And the thing is, that at 35, I can appreciate contentment for what it is – one of the rarest and most valuable experiences we can ever hope to have.