“Will you promise me something?” I said to my daughter. “When you’re big, will you remember this moment?”
We were lying on the couch on the porch, as part of our whole “blissful afternoon” enterprise. My husband was putzing around the grill, my son was drawing something and humming to himself, and my daughter and I were snuggled up on the couch reading Frog and Toad.
When I used to rock and nurse her to sleep as a baby, and she would fall asleep on my chest, smushing her chubby cheek against my chest, making me sweaty, a little string of drool maybe pooling on my skin (I didn’t mind), I would get such a surge of happiness, that I knew it had to be hormonal, because feelings this intense aren’t normally accessible without pharmacology. And it was such euphoria.
This also happened with my son, my older child, but sadly, I didn’t know to think about it, because I wasn’t yet wise to the fact that the period of time when I had the privilege of these sensations, the ability to release the hormones to create them, was not only finite, but also really short. I didn’t know how fast it would end, nor how unready I would be for that end. But with my daughter, I was well aware how small the reserve was. And when I would get this surge of ?oxytocin, I’d stick my nose into her silky head, inhale the sweet baby milk breath, and ride the wave all the way to high.
And I’d consciously tell myself, I need to remember what this feels like because it’ll end eventually. And also, I wish I could bottle this feeling, and then sell it.
(It could be an antidote to the opposite feeling you feel when you hold a baby who is screaming for no reason. Or when, as teens, they tell you they hate you, maybe. You could then open the little bottle of Eau de Baby Feels and take a little huff, and remember.)
Alas, I never figured out how to bottle the feeling, and it all passed, just as I had known it would. And I have really been having trouble with the concept of time passing lately: I constantly feel like it’s just floating away, carried by the wind like a huge winged kite, and I’m hanging on the tail, using my insignificant (compared to the force of the wind) weight to drag it down and failing. Time is going by and everything is changing, and will continue changing, and I am still me, and I am not ready for the changes that are ahead.
I am never ready for changes that lie ahead.
Lying on the couch there with her, I thought I was getting a reprise of that happy hormonal feeling, and I just thought, oh my gosh, here it comes again, the happy feeling, I need to remember this! And what’s more, I need her to remember this – like, she’d be a grown up and she’d tell her friends, “When I was little, we used to cuddle on the porch with my mom and brother…”
That’s why I said that.
“Huh?” She answered.
“When you get big, will you think, ‘I remember when I was little, my mommy and I and my brother and my daddy used to hang out on the porch in the summer and it was so nice…'”
There was a pause.
And then she said, with tears in her voice: “You’re going to die.”
NOT what I expected her say.
“You’re going to die, aren’t you?”
“You’re going to die!”
I’m thinking she’s taken my words and now thinks I’m imploring her to soak up the good times because I am about to check out and leave her an orphan.
“Baby!!” I said. “I’m not going to die! I just want you to remember this nice afternoon!”
But she said, “I am just afraid that you will get old and die and I will still be a little girl.”
And… I think I understand what she is saying. I think she and I are actually having the same crisis. I think she’s afraid that things will change, and I’ll get old and maybe even leave her, and she won’t be ready. She’ll still be a little girl. I think that’s some sophisticated thinking for an almost six-year-old.
But I’m afraid I can’t allay her fears in this regard because I have the same ones.
So I just hugged her and sniffed her hair, and told her I wasn’t getting old (even though I know I am – and that’s if I’m lucky), and desperately wished for my bottle of Eau de Baby Feels.