The other day at the beach, I lay on a chair in the sand, my skin hot in the sun. My five-year-old son walked out of the water and up to me and, dripping wet, sat on my lap. He lay along me, toes to ankles, head to shoulder. I loved it. And I thought, “There will be a day soon, maybe in three weeks, maybe in three years, when he will no longer do this. And then from that day on he won’t ever do it again.”
My friend, Melanie, (whom you’ve already met) is moving away this week, from the Chicago area to Portland, Oregon. I met Melanie when our sons were just weeks old, sitting on the floor of a community room in a weekly meeting for new mothers. We happened to place our baby blankets on the floor near each other, our sons lying on their backs, their eyes darting to the lights on the ceiling, to the people around us. We were part of a circle of other new mothers, all of us bleary-eyed and happy to be surrounded by those who knew exactly how we felt and why.
I can still picture the moment she first walked into the room—a smile on her face like she already knew everyone in there. That’s how easy it is to become friends with Melanie. She and I and several other new mothers formed friendships that continued outside of the community room meetings–friendships that became about more than just 3AM feedings.
Melanie has a laugh that’ll startle you. (It’s more of a shriek, really, accompanied by several loud hand claps.) Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I love being in public with her; when she laughs, I don’t look at her, I look at the unsuspecting person a few feet away from her who inevitably jumps.
She is hardworking, independent, blunt, flustered, earnest, intelligent, and supportive. She gives hugs. She makes herself at home. She is career-driven and a family woman, protective, a mama bear. She, her husband, and her children disappear most weekends—that is their time. I’m not sure I’ve spent more than three weekend nights with her in six years.
She knows who she is and what she wants most of the time. When she doesn’t, she talks it out until she does. She told me once that sometimes she needed to sit on the front steps and read a book before she entered the house after work. I remember being impressed that she had figured out such a small yet significant detail about herself, and it inspired me to regard myself in the same manner.
Her move is another reminder that a moment has passed. The days of new motherhood, of uncertainly slipping tiny socks onto tiny feet, of crying, exhausted, in a dark nursery in the middle of the night, of falling asleep midday on the couch with a soft pink wrinkled baby cradled in my elbow, are gone. They slipped past as quickly as the future day when my son will no longer sit on my lap.
He goes off to kindergarten next month. And Melanie is off to Portland.
Things change. I hope to continue to get better at letting them.