It’s six days until your very first birthday. Tonight, I watched your bleached-out thistle hairs blowing in the breeze as I pushed you in a swing. They glowed in the sun as it set over the park. I watched your six little teeth shining at me from a giant smile. Your dirty legs stuck out of the leg holes, dimpled at the thighs, with two fat feet swinging lazily beneath. I tried to pay attention – really pay attention, so that I might somehow stop time.
Your dad and I played catch with your Spiderman ball as you watched us and watched the other kids running around the park. We laughed at each other trying to do our best “left-handed” major league throws – which means we were (excuse the expression) throwing like girls, and that’s always funny.
We came home after a long, busy day.
It’s been a year since you came screaming into my life with your giant head and mighty lungs. A year since I sobbed as I sat with you in the back seat of our car, on the way home from the hospital for the first time, thinking I could never, ever, ever let you go or leave you. It’s been a year since Bon Iver sang the soundtrack to our lives as I rocked you, the notes of “Holocene” and “Perth” and “Calgary” swirling in from the next room. I would gaze down at you and wonder where the hell you’d been my whole life while being so afraid that God would take you away. I would pray, and pray, and pray so hard every night for you, little Bear. Nothing else mattered
And now, here you are, a completely different being than that helpless little slug with dark soft hair and blurry gray eyes. Sometimes it feels like that was a different baby altogether. Now your hair is practically white, your eyes are blue, and your laugh is a thousand anchors, tethering me to you forever. Your face, buried into my shoulder, even for the quickest of snuggles before you kick and wiggle to get out of my arms, is soft and warm. When you play, your face is bright, alert, watchful. Your eyes sparkle with every new little detail that you’re learning, like each new understanding is a star that makes it’s home in them.
Without you, Bubbalooshki Bear, I’d never have known the name “Bubbalooshki Bear.” I wouldn’t truly know just how funny farts actually are, or how exhilarating it is to test every surface by tapping (or slamming) your head into it. I wouldn’t know the pain of that giant head, like the hammer of Thor, in it’s morning unwieldiness, smacking into my lip. I wouldn’t hear the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard say ridiculous words like, “Gee gee gee gee,” and “Do do do do,” or hear it cry out, “Mumm mumm mumm” to me. I wouldn’t have come to terms with the word “poop” and be able to say it without wincing.
There are so many things I thought I couldn’t do, before you came along. I worried so much that I wasn’t cut out for this – that I would be terrible at it, that you’d feel like a stranger. Then there are the things I thought I’d be sacrificing – movies, wine, late nights, dates, “True Blood”… The T.V. cabinet stays closed most days now. We don’t watch shows, or the news, or anything really. We have Hulu and Netflix, but you broke the Wii, so now we officially have neither. And I don’t really notice it much. What’s the news compared to stacking blocks just so you can toddle over in your drunken-mummy-walk and knock them down? What’s a sitcom when we can make our own laughs with a lively game of Peek-a-Boo or, my favorite, “I’ma gitchoo!”?
Best year of my life. Best. Best. Best. And that’s really saying something, because I’ve had a great life. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m glad I know you now, although I feel like we’ve known each other for centuries in some other life. I can’t wait to watch you grow, but I do want time to stand still. Then again, I thought the same thing holding that little slug in my arms so many months ago. Sometimes time knows best – march on. If not, I wouldn’t know today the little boy you’ve become so far.
So I’ll keep trying to just pay attention – really pay attention, so that when time carries us on, I too will have a thousand little stars in my eyes – each a cherished moment with you that I hope to never forget. Every cry, every laugh, every snuggle, and yes, even every diaper change. I’ll try to be present for those moments. And I’ll keep praying for you, the same prayer.
That you’ll be strong and healthy. That you’ll grow up to be a man who’s kind, loving, and empathetic. That you’ll live a life of purpose and live with courage. That you’ll learn from your mistakes, and hopefully not make the big kind. That you’ll be a leader, not a follower. That you’ll find love in whatever it is you do, or better yet, do what you love. That you’ll find love. And that someone will love you as much as you deserve to be loved. That you’ll be happy, and always know how much we love you. That somehow, some way, we can muddle our way through enough to raise the person I envision you’ll be. And that I never let you down.
With all my heart and more, little Bear…