I had put Jonathan to bed an hour ago. I kissed his cheek, plopped him into his bed and tiptoed out of the room. But from the kitchen, where I was already cooking tomorrow's dinner (there is NEVER rest, I tell ya), I heard him beginning to stir again.
He rustled around in his bed and cried intermittently. Whatever had roused him from his sleep was making it hard for him to drift back to dream land. This usually happens one to two times each night and has taken on this pattern for the past month or so. A tribute to teething, I assume. Some nights, when I'm particularly exhausted, I'll let him just wail himself softly to sleep. Tonight, I couldn't bear the thought of my sweet baby crying along in his room. After five minutes, I put down the wooden spoon that was stirring a large pot of chicken fajita soup, and swooped into his room for the rescue.
He plopped straight up in his crib and smiled wide behind his binky. The edges of his mouth, peeked over the rim of the round plastic edges of his soother and erupted into soft dimples on his round cheeks. I picked him up, hugged his sweet little body through his soft footie pajamas. He immediately wanted me to put him down in front of his bin full of trucks and books. I don't usually oblige this request, I usually lay him back into his crib, wind up his lullaby giraffe, and walk back out.
But tonight, I wasn't ready to leave just yet. I put him down on the floor and sat next to him. I watched as he opened his books and pointed at the pages, babbling on in his little baby language.
Somehow, in the soft glow of the moonlight which crept into his room, my memory harkened briefly to when my first son was a baby. It was so long ago. I can barely remember him that way I recall that when he was small I rocked him and held him on several occasions and, in the sweetness of the moment, I swore to myself that that very moment would be imprinted into my brain forever. I would remember every detail. Seven years later, I remember nothing except that I had wanted so desperately to remember.
Here am I again. Faced with those same sweet moments with my third son. I don't pretend that I would be able to remember everything. The way his hair swirled into a circular pattern on top of his head. The crooked neck line of his first haircut. The happy and familiar gurglings of his own unique language. The way his cheeks encroached over his almond-shaped brown eyes as he smiled in my direction. There are so many things I wish I could remember about my sweet Jonathan. But I've come to accept the sad reality of life as a parent.
Life simply goes on. Every single thing is transient. The particularly rough stages that seem to consume life. The joy-filled moments that make you want to burst with happiness. The milestones. The phases. The routines. The activities. Even the way you communicate. The way you love. You can't harness it. You can't stop it. You can't direct it or control it. And, most tragically of all, you can't always remember.
If you step back and come to terms with the reality of everything- not just the fact that babies grow into children and children grow into adults. But the fact that our world, our lives, our reality, ALL of it is temporary, it makes everything seem so beautiful in a melancholy sort of way. The very fact that I will cease to exist in physical form. That I will someday have no eyes to see my children, no hands to touch my loved ones, and perhaps even no memory of them at all. If you come to terms with that harshest and most real secret of the universe, the entirety of our lives becomes one beautiful, difficult, joyful, challenging (but still beautiful) living photograph, or movie- a movie that you can only see once.
My little moment with Jonathan tonight was one flag on a garland of events that will happen over my life. I did not create that beautiful, tender moment. It was given to me, dreamed up and brought to life by an all-knowing producer/director much more masterful than myself. It's a moment that I wish would linger. That I wish I could conjure back at the wave of a hand, whenever it suits me. But that's not how it works. It was like every other moment, fleeting and impossible to fully recreate thanks to the limits of my inadequate memory.
Have you seen the movie Family Man? There is a scene in that movie that sums up what I believe to be the every day plight of the human experience. Nicholas Cage suddenly finds himself living a dream life. He wakes on Christmas morning to find that he is suddenly a father and a husband. Just as soon as he grows to love this strange new life, he learns that he will wake up the next day and the dream will be over. So he stays up late that night, clinging desperately to the new life and the people he has grown to love. It isn't easy or perfect, but he loves it nonetheless. He does everything in his power to avoid succumbing to the powers of sleep. But no matter how hard he tries, his will alone cannot change the course of time. He falls asleep and wakes to find the beautiful dream is gone.
That scene always makes me cry. It makes me cry because that is the simplest rendition of our own reality. That scene is all of us every single day, whether we recognize it or not. We are living in the dream life. Someday it will be forever gone. And that fact alone, makes every single second invaluable.
Love your babies. Love your spouse. Love your friends. Love what you are given.