The thought in my head as I look at him today is, "where did my baby go?" I almost cannot believe it is another birthday...that my boy-o has moved into another year of life. His face is changing, this much I have allowed myself to notice. His vocabulary is growing increasingly complex, as are his thoughts and questions. The baby who once wanted nothing more than to be held in the steady orbit of my arms is now looking so intently for the horizon, he sometimes doesn't see me.
When he was a few days old, we stuck him in a basket and took photos of him laced with flowers. His sister thought this was the best idea she'd ever heard of, and perched just beyond the camera lens to "watch her baby". I distinctly remember this day, because I was waiting to feel overwhelmed with fear and depression the way I had been with Petunia. The light was radiant, almost surreal...and the whole world was blooming, like it is now. I'd named something without even speaking--yes, this is what motherhood is supposed to feel like.
Toddlerhood came on and I waited for big changes. He was enthusiastic and high-energy, but so tender (even without the lipstick). My great fear: perhaps the depression will hit me late? I remembered the desperation after my firstborn all too well and studied my inner landscape as carefully as his dimpled hands.
It never came...and neither did my words. With the first child, I was so determined not to lose my sense of self that I nursed her and wrote at the same time. I grew frustrated if she woke early or missed a nap. In the vastness of mothering, words became my trail of bread crumbs back to what I'd known. When they scattered, so did I. With boy-o, I didn't write for sixteen months--except for random ephemera spilled into my journal. Somehow, I was confident enough in my voice and my experience to sink into life as the mother of two...and let the path be unmarked and overgrown. When I was ready, it all came back to me--my first writing was a poem about his birth and my re-birth after a space of creative gestation.
Now, he loses his last vestiges of babyhood by the moment. The silly mispronunciations we enjoyed slowly dissipate. He gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (like last night) and when I descend on the stair in my black nightgown like some Victorian ghost, he turns and waves me off stating, "Mom, I don't need you to wait for me now. I can do it by myself. I'm six." I sat on the edge of the bed watching for the nearly full moon instead and I knew he was right, but felt sorry anyway.
Since last summer, when he was hospitalized with meningitis, my boy-o looks so fragile to me. Yes, he's scaling the furniture, climbing the trees, and fearlessly fending off bad guys with sticks in the yard--but, a part of me hovers over him in a desperation that feels all too familiar. His life is his own and he is teaching me about letting go. The best part? He always comes back to me again. When he's tired, he curls up on my lap or lets himself be carried. When I'm wearing my black velvet shirt, his eyes light up and he announces, "Oh, you're wearing my lovey shirt!" then, he pets my arms and back, professing his devotion. He has grand plans for his future, and right now--they all involve me and how he'll "live with M. and I forever".
I know how this will change, like almost everything else about him. But what remains is the essence of my boy-o's oversized spirit. He looks breakable--without his shirt, he bends and flexes his arms and his bones protrude so wide from his back, they become giant wings. Angel, bird, or dream--like all sons eventually do, this one will fly away. Six is when a boy moves out of my arms and into the world...but, I'll be there, writing it all out for him so he can remember our story.
Happy birthday, Boy-o...