Sunday, August 31, 2008

River News: Month Seventeen

Can you believe this is on time for once?!

Dear River,

Today is the 17 month anniversary of your birth. It also happens to be your mommy and daddy's 5 year anniversary. I wanted to mention this because so little of these letters (and my blog in general) is dedicated to your dad, which is kind of strange when you consider how towering his presence is in both of our lives. I don't often write about him because I know it embarrasses him (something you won't be able to tell me for a few years--and when you do, I will grudgingly stop recording the finest details of your life), and--as much as I may put my own psychological flotsam and jetsam out there for the world to see--I try to respect his privacy. But mostly, I like to have something that is special, something just my own, something the intarwubs doesn't get to touch.

But he deserves recognition and, though it will make him blush and feel frightfully exposed, this is it:

Your dad is the best thing that could have happened to either one of us. He is kind, generous, thoughtful, curious, irreverent, fun, and so unbelievably smart. Every morning (at a ridiculous hour!) he is the first face you see. After he brings you to bed for a little snack, the two of you jaunt off together while I get a few minutes rest or a chance to shower. Then, with only enough time to clean up and barely gather his thoughts, he goes off to work where people, ideas, and meetings demand every second of his time. Without fail, he is home by dinnertime, and he swoops back into daddy-mode with nary a breath nor a chance to sit.

He gives so much time and energy to making sure we are happy, healthy, and well cared for. He takes on so much, never complains, and still finds a way to be light and full of love every single day. We are so lucky to have him in our life. We both know this, and now a whole bunch of other people do too.

It is so easy for me to see your father and I changing and growing together, sharing our lives and building a family, and walking down that winding and beautiful road known as old age. I hope our lives can look something like your great-grandparents' Gordon and Frankey, who we recently visited in Nebraska to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Can you imagine? Sixty years spent wandering this earth together! It is such a beautiful and awe-inspiring thing.

To sum up their marriage I could tell you about the time that grandpa Gordon was in a terrible car accident and unconscious for months, how grandma Frankey (19 years old and a mother of two) made her way to Chicago to be by his side with $22 in her pocket ($20 for the train and $2 to get by on), how they raised a family of four boys with little money but so much love. But I think this says it nicely:

After watching a video commemorating the family they had created and the years they had spent together, grandpa said--so quietly it was almost to himself--"Every day is a surprise." Your dad or I commented that it was such an accomplishment to spend sixty years together, and grandpa paused thoughtfully before replying, "All you need is love."

Yes, indeed. I hope that is a lesson you can learn every day of your life.

Your grandpa Terry's family gathered for the family reunion and you got to meet so many people: great-aunts and uncles, mommy's cousins and their kids. There were kids galore to play with--five girls to be exact--and you followed them around like a wide-eyed puppy. You were so eager to play their games and mimic them--you were like a funhouse mirror reflecting their every move: short and wobbly, but determined to follow along.

During the first day of our visit we went to the Omaha Zoo and had an unbelievable time. You loved seeing all the animals up close--monkeys and crazy-colored birds, snakes and huge fish, butterflies and zebras. The stand-out moment of this day for me, however, had nothing to do with critters. While we were riding the zoo train on a tour of the grounds, you started to get fussy, overheated, and hungry. You demanded to nurse, and while I've said we won't do that in public anymore, for the sake of everyone's happiness, I relented. Your cousin Sydney was sitting next to us and after a few minutes she looked over uncomfortably and said, "Don't you think he's a little old for that?" After months of avoiding this situation in front of adults, it took a six year old girl to state exactly what I had feared hearing from her elders.

I've never had to defend nursing you before (part of the reason I keep it private is because I don't want to), so I didn't have a ready or intelligent response for her. I muttered something about, "Mothers in Europe often nurse until their kids are two..." Lame and inadequate to say the least.

What I should have said is this: I know that it isn't considered socially acceptable by most Americans to be nursing a toddler, but just like every other decision I've made as a mother--Hello? WATER BIRTH!--I don't do things because society says I should. I do them because I truly believe it's what's best for you and for us as a family. And while I know that the end is coming soon, something in me is just not ready to let nursing go. The fact that you tug at my shirt and give "milk" sign way more often than I can perform tells me that you are not ready to let it go either.

I've used the unpredictability of these past two months (the travel and the move) to justify going on a bit longer than I intended. Withholding the familiarity and security that nursing provides seems cruel and unnecessary while everything else in your life is so uncertain. So on we march. Sometimes I'm tired of giving and giving. Often I worry that we have worked this grove so deeply into the record of your life it will be impossible to fill it in. But always I am so touched by how easy it is to connect with you while you nurse, how calm and happy it makes you, how it seems to make the world right for you. And it breaks my heart a little to think that I will have to say goodbye to that soon.

You're becoming more and more like a little boy every day. Your vocabulary is expanding (bubble, juice, ball), and you are getting more sophisticated in the way you play (pretend cooking and driving trucks). But so much of you is still undeniably my BABY, and I will protect that with all of my power until you no longer need me to.

I love you my darling boy,

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