Summer, you are coming to a close and soon the ground will be littered with multi-colored confetti leaves as a sullen reminder that the party is over. I’ve already expressed my desire for an extension but I suspect it’s been denied. Moping seemed to slow down my last couple weeks before Paul started school. Unfortunately, it was the bad kind of slow where there is too much time to think. And I didn’t use my thinking time to ponder anything useful like global warming, the national debt crisis, or a cure for cancer. I instead thought about how different my life is today from what I thought it would be.
Four years ago I watched my friends go off to college and I stayed behind working, waiting really, for my turn as I tasted my first real dose of adulthood. I was facing circumstances that my mom wasn’t obligated or even permitted to step in and fix for me. But I was a dreamer and couldn’t possibly believe that all would not fix itself in due time. I would still go to school, just a semester after my peers, and I would eventually graduate, teach high school students how to write and express and read and think, and I would be happy. Then, when I’d least expect it, some insane man, most likely a real estate agent or sales rep for a small pest control company, would show up and sweep me off my feet. He’d show up in the middle of one of my classes with a bouquet of green daises and a little velvet box containing a gaudy square rock that his sister picked out for me. We would get married that summer and honeymoon in Mexico before school started. I would go back to teaching while I’d struggle with years of infertility like my mother, and on my thirtieth birthday I would surprise my husband with the big news: A positive pregnancy test.
That’s the most honest interpretation of my life plan I can recall from so long ago.
But God had something else in mind and sent me Paul. I married young, got pregnant within the year, dropped out of college for lack of funding, and quit my job to start a new season of life: mothering an infant.
As I struggled to keep up with all of the changes I wondered of it was too much, too soon, and too different. Yesterday I sat on the floor with Andrea watching her lick and chew on my watch. Occasionally she would take it out of her mouth, a string of spit still connecting it to her lips, and she would giggle profusely, eyes glowing with pure delight.
I was then taken back to the first six months of her life which I mostly try to forget. I recalled those first few weeks when every cry panicked me-- every noise woke me. Every sneeze was typhoid fever and every grunt was diphtheria. I kept her beside my bed in a laundry basket so I could rescue her if she chocked in the night or feed her before she had the chance to cry. I sat on the couch watching informercials all night as I nursed and examined my new and not-so-glamorous life. I remembered all the nights and days that I laid her down to sleep and hoped the sandman would come save my tired bones. I cried, crouched over on the floor of her room as I listened to her sleeping breath turn to screams within a minute of being put down. I wanted the cup to pass from me. Not in a take-away-this-child way, but in a change-her-to-make-her-not-the-way-she-is-because-I-can’t-take-this-anymore way.
How I’m glad now, watching her tell my watch stories and giggle at the black band, that she is just who she is. The two of us have come so far and because of the trials we faced I’ve come to love her more than I thought possible. Yesterday, while folding a basket of clean underwear, I finally made peace with my new life. My new life that is so different from what I expected—but all my own. (And the season of baby is not so bad now that the season of newborn is over!)
Good bye, Summer! Good bye to your stormy nights and humid, cloudy days. Goodbye to your sweltering heat and cool, dry breezes. That’s the thing about you seasons, whether it is changes in climate or phases in life, you weren’t meant to last forever. But when you come again you will be just as different as I. In case we don’t recognize each other look for a young mom chasing a little girl. . . and smiling.