Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lying frozen at midnight: Summer's end

Dear Noah,

So tomorrow you start second grade. SECOND grade. I've been practicing saying so all summer, in my head, sometimes out loud, "Yes, my son will be in second grade." My voice is not used to saying this, not at all, and it feels a bit foreign once it's in the air, and I try to process it, and I know this sounds melodramatic, but boy, this is not easy for your mama.

It was about five minutes ago that you were staring up at me with eyes as big as moons while sucking steadily on your bottle and occasionally reaching your tiny hand to my face. Now…NOW… you are in the middle of elementary school. You are almost eight (well, it's months away, really), and you love me to tell stories of the days when you were just one month old or not even out of my belly yet. You laugh and laugh and ask for more. You imitate yourself as an infant, puking up a belly full of milk all over me, drenching me; you've seen me do it so many times. You ask me to tell about the moment you came into the world and stared and stared, never the sleepy newborn, curious from the get-go, immediately connected to the world. I comply, happy to bring us back there, and look right at you, right into your bright eyes, so ready to laugh. I make my own eyes grow large, larger, and then I circle them around the room, looking left and right, making my eyes wider and wider still; I throw in a tiny infant cry every so often for effect. I am watching you watching me remember you.

You love infant Noah, in part, I think, because you have no memory of him and yet you were him - and you are him - but he is so inaccessible that only the stories connect you to him. It must be strange for you to not remember; you are used to remembering and your memory is reliable. I can now say for certain, however, that you have entered, without any doubt, years that you will remember sometimes with great clarity (and other times with a frustrating fuzziness or an inaccuracy that cannot possibly be untrue…). We will still tell stories of Noah in second grade back and forth, but you are the keeper of most of them, and some I know you'll never tell.

You will read about our summer here and while much of it will be familiar, you will have your own perspectives on this time; you drifted off to sleep tonight with your unique thoughts about summer or school or who knows what on earth else… and tomorrow you begin to collect more memories, more moments that will make you *you* and I will only ever know a fraction of them.

I loved our summer together because we shared almost every single moment. Someday soon you'll want more camps and alone time and playdates, but for this summer, anyway, you were all mine (and Gracie's) and we wandered rather aimlessly into and out of summer together, and most of our moments were shared; that was an absolute joy and privilege.

I will admit, sweet Noah, that I was a little terrified for summer. There were so many days ahead of us and I had very few plans for those days. And, though you might not have felt this, it took awhile to find our groove. But we got there and now, unbelievably, I'll be setting that damned alarm clock once again. We've gotten used to sleeping in; you get up to see Daddy off before 7 and then go back to sleep, collapsing into your bed or mine.  I reach over, pull you in,
drift off again.

I've been staying up past midnight, reading my books, listening to my podcasts, thinking, thinking. And you've been up, sneaking in a few last pages of your books or adding a couple new features to your Ninjago castle. But you have your limits, you've found. The other night, we were at a gathering around a bonfire, time ticking away faster than we thought, and you excused yourself from the kids at 9, and half stumbled towards us, saying, "I need to go to bed, Mama." You are still our little, precious child who needs all kinds of sleep. You are so tiny and so big at the very same time.

Our days started slowly, and sometimes stayed that way, but sometimes accelerated quickly. This summer, you started riding your bike with friends (aka "the biker gang") around the block, no grown-ups in sight). You passed the deep end test at the pool, which means that you can tread water for two minutes straight and swim for a really long ways.

You discovered google and when you really, really wanted screen time and knew I would say no, you knew your best bet was asking if you could google something if you spelled all the words yourself and didn't just ask Siri or allow for autofill. You texted Daddy when you missed saying goodbye to him, apologizing for not waking up in time. You played Legos to your heart's content. You drew pictures of oceans and its creatures and ninja battles, mainly, and you built castles with secret rooms and trap doors. You are the essence of childhood right now, Noah, and it's hard for me to fully wrap my head around the fact that this moment, this very moment in my life, is what I believe and have always believed it is all about. Everything, here, now. It's almost too much to handle and yes, I'm terrified of losing it.

You started "Choose your own adventure" books and initially, they confused the living hell out of you. "What if you don't like how it ended and wish you had chosen differently but don't really know where you should have chosen differently?" you asked Daddy, in a number of different ways, a number of times. But you're getting it now. And speaking of Daddy, have I mentioned you have the most giant Daddy crush right now? He is your person. You switch your seat to sit next to him or save a seat, protecting it with your life, for him at dinner time. If he will be driving one car and I the other, there is no question whose you will choose. You look at me with momentarily apologetic eyes and say, "I love you so much, Mommy. I'd like to go with you too, but I'll go with Daddy this time." I appreciate your empathic efforts and I know I don't always hide jealousy well, but honestly, who better to adore than that daddy of yours?
First time on a horse

I've never seen you happier
This summer you started noticing how babies and other children who are younger than you are really cute. You point it out to me as I used to do to my mom all the time, as in Mom, you CANNOT miss this one…this one is so cute, I guarantee she's going to make your day.

I switch from telling you that you are cute and then handsome and then not saying anything about it for awhile because, of course, I know I shouldn't point out the physical things because importance shouldn't be placed on that and I get that, I do. But sometimes, really, all I want to do is say, "OH MY GOD, HOOOOOOOOOW DID *WE* MAKE BEAUTIFUL, HANDSOME, GORGEOUS, BLUE-EYED YOU?" It's obnoxious and I don't say it (but apparently I have no problem writing it). Someday you'll read this and that will probably be at a time when you have a pretty good sense of self (you will care less about this blog for at least a decade). So, future (current) Noah, I'm sorry to make a thing of it at all. It has never mattered that you are cute and handsome, but it does matter that you are beautiful - warm and thoughtful and kind. I hope you practice all of those attributes every single day in the second grade.

When we went away on our annual college friends summer trip this year, you got to go off with the dads to play frisbee golf. You told me you tied Daddy for second. Daddy smiled and said, "huh" when I mentioned what you told me. But speaking of golf, Grandpa just bought you two clubs and a golf bag and you carry that thing around as if you've been doing so for years. You have quickly developed mad mini golf skills and you seem entirely at ease on the green, my love. You place your feet just so and figure out your angle and frankly, we got rid of the -1 rule on each hole as soon as we saw who we were working with.

Self imposed ice bucket challenge

Kid Olympics 2016, collector of medals

You will (you do) remind me you are not perfect. Do not worry, I am well aware. Remember, I have just spent an entire summer with you. You are kind and sincere, but really terrible at sharing… still. Your sense of fairness is strong, but mostly when it is you who has been wronged. You adore your sister but seem to lack the ability to demonstrate it at several (numerous, really) points throughout the day, each day, every day. Here is where you can start mentally inserting all of the many flaws you have catalogued about me throughout the years.

Okay, that's enough! At least you can never say I didn't love you more than life.

But now it is very late and I've set that blessed alarm to jolt me awake at 7 and I suppose I need to shut this post down. Oh, a few hours from now and my heart will sink, I know it. I will pull you into bed for a nostalgic and quick cuddle, but refuse the temptation for our usual semi-conscious slumber.

I try and remind myself all the time that this is good - and yes, I do wish for nothing else than my children progressing through their lives, year by year, as they naturally should. To wish for time to freeze, as a very wise and dear friend reminded me once, is not in fact the thing we really want to wish for. What I need to want is what is happening here, now. I've got it in writing here, all the things I'm thinking, so when my memory fails me, I will at least have this, a bittersweet moment when you were 7 and I, 37, now crystallized. You will remember your moments about tomorrow - maybe the moment you realize which one your teacher is or what it feels like to go to the gym rather than the cafeteria (as you did in K and 1st grade) before the first bell. You will likely remember where you are seated and what you miss about the year before and what you miss about your mornings and days with Grace and me and your nights (remember how we started our every night evening walks this summer?) with all of us.

But tomorrow is 20 minutes away now and before I know it, we're going to be in the middle of it. We will struggle over our decision of a decent-enough first day of school outfit. I will watch you move your cereal around your bowl because who can eat with the nerves? I get that. You'll start yelling at Gracie not to make you late while I push you towards the stairs reminding you to brush your teeth. On will go your backpack, same one as last year just a little less big on you now, and we won't be thinking about it, but as we go, we'll be fighting through our sadness, and embracing it at the same time.

All my love,