Details, they often fall to the wayside as I try to manage huge undertakings. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, other times like, say making a sweatshirt in seventh grade, they matter. A failure to address the details equates to an 28″ neckline on a crew neck sweatshirt (Thank you Jennifer Beals, for making that ok.) Other times the details are things like an over-the-top 1st birthday cake, still nothing that wounds me, but oh the judgement, “You mean you didn’t throw a big party?” and “She didn’t have a cake?” and my favorite, “Oh, there wasn’t a theme…wow.” Give me a break, I thought the breastfeeding for 20 months, the organic diet, the delicately laundered clothes and bedding and the exposure to books, music and the outdoors was what it was all about, not Dora and a birthday crown.
That’s not what got this started, it was actually hearing Avery whisper, “Licious.”
She looked at me, a bright green cilantro leaf clinging to her raspberry colored lips, a rug burn scab winking at me just beneath her nose, and bits of shredded cheese and ground turkey falling from her little hands. My heart, broken and mended so many times over, I’d thought by this time was stronger, simply shattered as she shined the entire her light of her being on me and said, “Licious, mama. Dat food ‘licious.”
Looking into those eyes, so blue and wide, I saw the reflection of a thousand decisions shining back at me. I saw the late night talks with Sean, the yearning to have a baby. My frantic worry that bringing another baby into the world would be unfair to Briar, my belly already swelling with the soon-to-be-blue-eyes before me. Watching her reach for another fistful of turkey I remembered my own reaching, questing to find a way to be home more.
I have not chronicled Avery’s life like I did Briar. I’ve never made scrapbooks or kept consistent journals for either one, there are no “Baby’s first year” albums kicking around our house. There are stones collected along the banks of the Hudson sitting on shelves, there are crumbly twigs gathered at the feet of the gnarly storybook tree at our favorite park and there are threadbare shirts, collars stained with strawberry and tree sap. The notes I’ve gathered on her life cannot be read in tidy chapter form, they are etched in my being.
I know, even now as licious echoes in my ears and sparkling rivers of sinfully ripe, organic Bosch pear juice run down her bare arms and wrinkle the emerald construction paper she is coloring beside me, that I’ll forget that word, the throaty sound of it passing over her glistening lips. I’ll lose my grasp on the rhythm of her words, may struggle to remember if it was Avery who sounded like she was from Boston or if it was Briar.
I have ferreted away in drawers and boxes, scraps of paper upon which I’ve scrawled notes. I hope that it will be enough, That as their cheeks hollow and their limbs lengthen and they seek out clues, a way to gain entry into the parts of their lives that they don’t remember, that I’ll have enough. I hope that my choice not to follow a uniform method of documenting their milestones, will be ok. I hope that Avery will know that I catalogued her first years differently than Briar’s because of the way we connected, less dreamy gazing and worshipping, more giggling staring contests and dueling. Perfectly, exquisitely distinct.
And then, just as I fear that I’m wrong, that I should have written it all down, we have a moment, the kind that I cannot imagine if I lived a thousand years, that I could ever forget.
She’s just crawled into the room, a bright pink plastic fork in her hand. I call to her to bring it over onto the carpet. She keeps crawling, I call her again and she stands, bumping her head on the drawer from which she’s taken the fork. She stands gingerly, “Uh bumped my head. Ah bumped my head on’a drawer.” I look, my brow furrowed, “Can I kiss it for you?”
“No. My do it myself,” she says with an emphatic blink. Then she stops, thinks, her eyes looking upward, and the realization hits that she cannot kiss her own head. The familiar sensation of my heart splitting in a thousand hairline cracks. She walks to me, head bowed, “You kiss’a my head, mama? You kiss it and make my head better?”
And I do, bending forward I kiss that silky head, pressing my lips hard and squeezing my eyes closed as the tears threaten. She stands taller, returning my kiss with an impish twist of her head and a ,”Das’a better on my head, mama. I yove’a you!”