December 7, 2006
There is a moment during great concerts after last note has played out, but before the applause starts, of lingering clarity. The music trails in your head, the musician waits expectantly for the audience reaction, the crowd recoils silently with palpable tension. The quiet is delicious and I always want it to go on forever. But then, usually too soon, people leap to their feet spontaneously, applauding and cheering. The artist relaxes, smiles and the moment has passed.
That in-between moment is the best way I know to describe the experience of seeing of seeing my son for the first time. After the drama of being born he was lying in an incubator squalling under the attention of a small battery of nurses and doctors. They parted allowing me in and there was a sudden quiet. My son's eyes opened for the first time and we looked at each other. He held my finger. Everything fell away. Lingering clarity... and then of course it was time to bring him to his mother who worked so hard to get him into this world and things got noisy again.
With a first child you spend nine months speculating. What will he look like? Will he have a sense of humor? Will he hate eggs like I do? Will he have my toes or yours? But when the child is actually born, sitting there blinking, still steaming from the womb, holding your finger with his entire hand, you realize, you don't know anything, you have no idea what to do, and the only thought in your head is, "What have we done?"
Fast forward two years to this morning. My son is hiding under a blanket. When I peek underneath he says in his scariest voice, "Boo" and pulls down a corner. From my perspective I see a blanket covered mound shaking with giggles. He refers to watermelon as "mmmmmmmmmm" as in "yummmmmmmmm". He is moved by music of all kinds, finding it impossible not to sway his entire body from side to side when hears something he digs. He insists we join in his rapture so if you see the Gutierrez family at an Indian restaurant and they are playing Bollywood tunes (he loves Hindi music), you will see all of us chair dancing in unison and a huge smile on my son's face. He loves the moon and wants me to grab it for him. None of this would I have imagined.
Of course it hasn't all been fun. Sleep has never been our son's strong suit... All the clichés about not knowing vulnerability until you have a kid are true... wait until your 3 month old has a raging fever, or you watch your 6 month old topple from a chair, or witness a 4 year old sucker punch your kid in the playground. Each incident stops your heart for a second, but while these things hurt our parental minds, the kids are, for the most part, oblivious. They're hard to break. It is a necessary trait of the very young, to shake things off and to keep moving forward without looking back.
Time has a different meaning for a 2 year old. He can spend an afternoon chasing ants and have it pass in a second, but 5 minutes in a car seat can stretch out to eternity. For us parents days flicker by with blinding speed. We look at pictures from 3 months ago and say to each other, "My god he was such a baby."
Life is full of so many firsts. First smile. First steps. First time seeing the ocean. First ice cream. First stars. First time wearing waders in the rain. First time playing in a pile of leaves. First scar. Maybe first memories.
And for this particular two year old life has been full of people who love him, and he expresses love in return with an almost heartbreaking openness. If only things could always be this sweet...