I get home just in time from what feels like my thousandth walk along the river trail. I’m huge, cumbersome, and impatient. It’s just started pouring, but the sun shines on, oblivious: my favourite kind of weather. I take a video with my phone to show Justin later.
She’s six days old when we take our first walk together as a family of three. Besotted, we barely glance at the scenery. The newest object of our affection is tucked in her stroller, eyes closed and face rumpled.
We trundle along the gravel path, my stitches tugging with each step.
We two lie on her bedroom floor, a ragged heap of hunger and exhaustion. It’s 3am, or maybe 4.
A train hollers from the bridge a mile away.
She cries. I cry.
It’s hot. So hot. The sky is thick with haze from summer wildfires; the sun barely visible, muted and red.
The carpet guys are here to replace our top-floor underlay. She’s draped across the crib mattress on the living room floor, spindly legs hanging over one edge. Between the incessant banging from upstairs and Dr. Phil’s emphatic voice on the TV, it’s a miracle she’s sleeping so soundly. I take another bite of cereal.
My mum calls. Her voice breaks as she says the word “cancer.”
I cry. She cries.
I hug my small one tighter. We both need her Grammie.
I’m nursing her in the old leather chair in her room. We’re both dozing off in the warm autumn light.
An email comes through on my phone: “we’d like to publish your piece.” I’m instantly awake, vibrating with a mixture of elation and terror.
Amelia taps her fingers on the dash in a rapid-fire staccato. The babies wail in the backseat. “Where the hell is he? I said we’d only be two minutes.”
She calls her husband. He thought we’d be at the front door, not the parking garage entrance. He rushes down to let us in. Another (semi-)successful outing with two six-month-olds.
“THE SCREAMING. MAKE IT STOP.” is tonight’s hastily-typed Facebook status update — my first in weeks.
In the gaping pink baby-ness of her mouth, I spy something new: two sharp white slivers, freshly pushed through.
We wake up in the dark. We eat dinner in the dark. In between, the neighbourhood is swaddled in frost and fog. I spend each day counting the minutes until Justin gets home; his 13-hour workdays are wearing on all of us.
Let’s just get through December.
I fill my plate at a New Year’s Day get-together. Dharm is an old friend — we were thick as thieves (does anyone even say thick as thieves anymore?) back in Toronto, a hundred years ago. Now, we’ve each grown up and paired off, and every time we run into one another we promise to make plans and never follow through. But he and his wife invited us today, and we came, so maybe there’s still hope.
There’s a four-day-old baby here and for the first time I realize how much our girl has grown. It feels jarring, somehow, not to have the youngest kid in the room. But it’s a relief, too.
My coffee cup teeters on the edge of the bathtub, as does a very needy cat, who’s discovered that swimming lesson days are the best time to get some love — and who isn’t above risking a good soaking in the name of a free petting hand. With limited time before Justin and the small one get home, I have to relax efficiently: coffee, bath, and podcast, all at once.
For a moment, I consider joining them at the pool next week — but Ira Glass’ vocal fry soothes the thought away.
The morning slides past and we’ve spent it all on her bedroom floor. I’m sprawled out in a sunny patch on the carpet, a human jungle gym for my wee climber. She jams her palm in my eye socket for the 20th time today, on her way over me.
Her favourite birthday gift is the greeting card with the terrier on the front. “Woof-woof!” I melt with pride.
The dog in the picture sports a small pink bow, because my mum just can’t help herself. She likes to remind me that her mother’s favourite colour was pink.
It’s still spring but it feels like summer. Floating, silent, I watch the cottonwood snow drift through the blue air and settle all around me in the pool. A thick quilt gathers on the water’s surface.
14 months. I’ve grown softer, stronger, scared. In a few days, I’ll be back at work.
At night, we rehash the updates from the small one’s daycare centre. We lie in bed, two solitary rafts adrift.
“She smells different now,” I say.
He takes my hand. “I know.”