A few weeks ago I was attending the Southeastern College Art Conference and wandered over to the member’s exhibition to see what was around. I saw this piece and spent some time with it before I read the tag. I felt like it had to be about a baby because the scale seemed just so, but the tag confirmed it. I started to well up and had to sit and take a deep couple of breaths. I took a picture of the tag to see if I could find out more about it, which is a good thing because I remembered it wrong; I thought the subtitle said “I was around more than you realized when you were young.” Ok, so I wasn’t close on the title but I do like mine and maybe I will use it for something down the road.
The next day, I actually was watching a session where Michael spoke and he was pretty smart and funny. This series is from him placing a piece of paper on an inked up plate and then putting his son on the paper for some tummy time. He did the series until his son scooted over to the edge one day and tore the paper up. I saw on his website that he published a book of the images, which I imagine is great and meaningful and will only gain meaning as his son gets older.
I have been thinking about all this because of Lena. I feel like she has gotten some of the second child treatment. Some of that has been good; Shannon’s recovery from labor and birth was so much better this time around that I think the maternity leave was a more pleasurable experience for both Lena and Shannon. But I haven’t written anything on the blog about Lena since I started, and eventually finished, the story of her birth. I could chalk this up to a lot of different things (dissertation, gallery shows and art stuff, teaching, failed job applications, general laziness), but maybe its just different the second time around. The structure of our days wasn’t a huge personal shift for either Shannon or I this time around; Lena just fit in.
But looking at Michael’s piece in that Florida gallery gave me a little bit of a vocabulary to talk about some of the stuff I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on.
So Lena, if you’re reading this several years from now, I was around more than you might realize. At the beginning of July I kept you and your brother home with me for the rest of the summer. You didn’t start at North Broadway with Miles until the day after Labor day. I got to see you scoot around the floor, we listened to a crazy amount of music, and spent more time at the zoo than one should if you find the zoo like I do–which is to say that I am kind of unsure about the ethics of the whole enterprise. I can tell you that one of my favorite things this summer was wandering into your room in the morning, pulling up one shade to let the sunrise in and watch you wake up and smile at me. My least favorite thing happened about 6 weeks or so ago when you decided, rather than nap when you were home sick, you would pull yourself out of the crib. The sickening thud I heard from my room and the fact that you still hadn’t cried when I got through your door–you were still making that scream face where nothing comes out–is burned in my memory. I’m sorry.
You have been home sick a lot from daycare. Your mom and I knew that would happen, but it still feels like it has been a little on the extreme side of all this. We both know it will pass, but I think I have gotten mostly used to it. While its inconvenient right now, its not for forever. Over the last couple of days you have had a hard time sleeping and to help you out, I have been holding you tightly in my arms with our head cradled on my left arm and your body and legs on my right. You squirm for a moment and then find your left thumb to suck on. While you fall asleep, your right hand plays with the back of my left arm, like you are rubbing my arm for luck. I never felt like I was able to calm your brother down when he was your age, but I can calm you. It’s wonderful when it happens.
I wish I had found more time to blog and write about the first time you fell asleep in my arms on our back deck after we had dinner with some friends. I wish I had chronicled the exact date when I made you laugh for the first time, or how much Miles made you laugh in your first year, or how you always seemed to just sink into your mom’s arms when she held you. I wish I could have chronicled all those moments when I whispered into your ear about how much I loved you. And I wish how I could have peeked out from under the loads of laundry, dishes, and stupid, stupid housework a bit more and relaxed. I tried my best to just be present around you and I wish the same thing for you that I wish for your brother: your home was warm and you are loved, deeply and unconditionally.
I want to find something slightly sarcastic or funny to end with here, so that there aren’t too many feelings in one spot, but I am not going to do that. Lena, Miles, Shannon, I am around; I hope that was enough, even when it wasn’t. Love you.