22 months / by Christina Rosalie

Dear Bean, As though your heartbeat were the metronome of my time passing, your growing marks my aging. You’re so big now, tousle headed and bright eyed. You stand mid-thigh to me. Two months shy of two years old, you carry rocks and cookies and other small treasures in your pockets. You are passionate about tractors and backhoes and mud and books. You take long walks with us along the muddy dirt road, stomping in puddles and pointing at birds. Recently you began speaking in sentences, stringing syllables together, like so many bright beads on the sea glass necklace of language, and it’s a wonder to hear what you have to say.

In the past two months, the trees have turned into skeletons of bark and twigs and on cold mornings you put your own boots on. You have learned to climb up onto the stools in the kitchen, and we spend many family meals there, the three of us in a circle of yellow light around the butcher block island, passing forks and trying to carry on conversations. With words, you now have the ability to express that you want specific things, right this second. Mama, more milk please. Mama, mama, mama, milk!

The past two months have been difficult though. Not because of you exactly—your beautiful smiles fill up our hearts with heady glee and wonderment—but because your presence makes our lives full to saturation. Since you, there have been few moments for downtime, and fewer moments when your Daddy and I have a chance to gather each other up in our arms and really look at each other.

Parenthood took us like a storm at sea. Together our small red boat of tenderness , we threw ourselves into the process of staying afloat, and have somehow lost track of who we are for each other. The compass of our life trued towards you; your needs so primal and huge pulled our hearts with fierce gravitational tug. But gradually over the past two months, as you’ve become less needy and more independent, we find ourselves trying to redirect the vessel of our love. Often, we find ourselves flailing about, clutching at the driftwood of who we were. So much has changed. The raw fibers of our selves have been stretched and pummeled utterly.

So the past few months have been drenched with moments where we face each other on the shore of our love and find ourselves unbalanced and hesitant at the edge of the rubble-strewn tide line that stretches out between us. Invariably, you are right there, asking for more noodles, or “Mama, read book, now” and we only manage jagged interjected sentences. Or it’s late at night, and you’re finally asleep, and we’re so exhausted that everything we say comes out slanted and biting.

It’s hard to be in this place. Here, where we can see how the routines that have grown up out of necessity, have made deep grooves across the surface of our lives and love. More than either of us would like to admit, things have become for granted. We spend days hip deep in the mud of surviving; arguing again and again about the things of daily life that accumulate with great banality and abundance day after day. The dishes, the bills, dinner, laundry.

I’m writing about this because someday you’ll be tall and you’ll be shaving, and also, because someday you’ll be in love and you’ll be trying to figure all this out for yourself. I’m also writing about this because I want you to understand how loving travels the full arc between passion and deep despair, and how a lot of the time you’ll find yourself somewhere in the middle of it, flailing like a fish, one moment in the sweetest water, and the next on the harshest sand.

Just now, as I was writing you and Daddy burst into my studio, full of morning excitement, ready to do things with the day. It’s 10:30 am, the weekend before Christmas, and there are cookies to be made, and shopping to be done, and decorations to be hung. Daddy wraps his arms around me, and right away you climb onto my lap, grabbing first at the pencils on my desk, then going for my keyboard. In the three minutes you are in my studio, you scribble in my notebook, collapse my easel, and climb onto the futon, wanting to be read Good Night Moon. You are like a sudden rip tide; when you’re present, you fill the room up and make it impossible for me to do anything but swim with the current, keeping track of the horizon in the distance.

But I’m grateful for this. For the struggle of it. I realize how easy it would be for me to succumb to simply letting life change me gradually and unintentionally, were it not for the latent urgency you bring to my life. When you woke up two mornings ago, I carried you into our room and tucked you into bed between Daddy and I. There in the dark, while both of us were trying for a few more minutes of sleep you began to sing, ever so softly. Suddenly I realized you were singing all the words to the lullaby I sing you every night. Go to sleep, you sang and stroked my face, and goodnight, and tomorrow will come soon. You sang so sweetly and off key, but you had every word right, and I could feel my heart start thudding with sudden awe. You learned to sing over night, and here I am barely able to get around the width of my ego to say I’m sorry when I’ve hurt your daddy unintentionally, or when I’m so tired that I have nothing to say beyond the superficial.

I opened my eyes and realized you were watching me as you sang. This is what I mean about urgency. You’re watching me. Being your mama I am reminded daily, again and again, of our need and our capacity to grow, to learn, and to become.

I love you, Mama