It was two years ago, almost to the day. Spring just emerging in New England. One of the first warm days of the year, one of the first warm days of Gabriel's short life. Josh and I decided to load up the stroller and drive to Newport, Rhode Island. Newport always feels like summer and fun and freedom to me, and we were almost giddy as we packed our diaper bag and got the car seat into the car. It was our first road trip as a family of three and we hardly knew what to bring- we were so clumsy and awkward and NEW at this parenting life.
He woke up when we still had a while to go, so we stopped at a Starbucks in Providence for me to nurse, still feeling a little embarrassed whenever I'd pull out the nursing cover and hide his little body underneath. I felt people's eyes on me, so I focused instead on Gabe's ear and the way his hair curled around the edges. Even today, I can picture that tiny ear as if it were in front of me, I can feel the way his little body curved around my waist.
Back in the car, we approached the long arching bridge into town and could see the scenery changing from industrial to beach life. We pushed our stroller proudly down the narrow streets, stopping to look in store windows, stopping even more often to exclaim about some tiny change of expression in his sleeping face that no one noticed but us. We could scarcely believe this precious cargo we had with us, this new life as a family of three.
We stopped again at a dim coffee shop for me to feed him again- it seemed like Gabe nursed more often than he didn't in those days. We sat in overstuffed chairs next to the window, sipping hot chocolates as the glass fogged up in front of us, watching and listening to the college students and teenagers around us sharing stories of competing gossip. I remember feeling so tightly wound in those days, full of fear, anxiety, adoration, exhaustion, and happiness, all mixed up and impossible to separate. Having your first child is almost like a flavor on your tongue. You can remember what it was like, but that taste never quite returns.
When we emerged from the coffee shop, the temperature had dropped sharply and the wind whipped in from the ocean. We hurried down the streets, new parents concerned that the baby would get cold, even though he was wrapped in blankets and a sleeping bag and huddled under a blue hat. Our dinner was quick, both of us anxious to get on the road before it became too late.
I drove while Josh sat in back and entertained Gabriel, which seems laughable now, but that was life with one child. Innumerable moments spent admiring him, enjoying him, absorbing every little detail about him. Learning how to love someone more than your own life. Figuring out how to be a parent. Eating up every minute.
Spring is arriving in New England again these days, and the weight of Josie in my arms reminds me of Newport, but life today is very different. Moments spent inhaling her newness are stolen moments. Life is filled with toddler squeals and enthusiasm over everything. Rather than learning how to love, I am learning how to survive this swelling of my heart that threatens to explode from the beauty of my two children.
At lunch today, I knew my friend must be newly pregnant. Her hand curved over her mostly flat stomach, just starting to bulge. The way she picked at her food. Her husband's eyes on her as we ate. Sooner than she realizes, she'll have her own memory of walking the streets of an off-season vacation town. And even sooner, that memory will be written over by the chubby hands of her two year old tugging at her jeans, saying "Mommy! Watch me!" as he runs around the table. That ache is the price of time passing. The privilege of being around to see it.