Awake and Around (One for when you’re older, Carter Patrick)

Dear Carter,

There’s time to spare, little one.

I’ve spent a lot of time (understatement of the century) during your early years plagued by worry and fear and anxiety. But anticipating life’s interruptions is no way to live, Bird. I hope, if you’re reading this as an adult, I’ve at least taught you that by now.

Anxiety isn’t viscous; it’s runny. It dries sticky and leaves a stain. It leaked in slowly near the end of 2011, then came in frequent floods in 2012, and has finally tapered off. You saved my life, Carter. You are my constant joy. That’s not to be taken lightly, by the way, considering that at the moment, you are two-and-three-quarter-years old and a full time, exhausting job.

Just after you had turned one and we were living with Uncle Patrick and a soon-to-be pregnant Aunt Meg, you decided that sleeping wasn’t your thing. You were a howler, and it took me a few jabs in the darkness of new-and-single-motherhood to figure out what would calm you down. But we nailed it: walking down the street, back and forth, with you in my arms. Mind you, it was winter, and we surely looked ridiculous pacing up and down Quail Track in our pajamas and bare feet (we’ve never been the type for shoes). We stared up at the moon. It was one of the first words you knew back then. I’d sing to you every song your Great Grandma Pat had sang to me growing up. I can’t sing very well, but you’ve never minded, and I’m thankful for that. I thought life was rough then, but you were weight in my arms, real and full, and those nights were our nights. We shoveled a lot of stars back then, but I’d never trade.

Tonight, I started hanging pictures on our wall here. You helped pick out the frames. We’re starting the overhaul on your room this week: a robot chair, models of the solar system and the lunar phases, bunk beds (raddest three-year old ever, you are). Matter of fact, we’ve both got new beds now. We put up Halloween decorations. Me and you, we’re a home, Bird.

I fought harder than I’d ever fought the day you were born, and I’ve fought ever since. I still dream about your last ultrasound — the one that showed you, eyes big and open and wide, blinking into the camera, in juxtaposition to shots of my failing kidneys and liver. I was calm because you were fine, until the nurse told me that if I didn’t make it, you wouldn’t. So the choice was made: I was going to have to stick around. And then there was the bit about having no pain medication, no numbing the six hours of active pushing. So I was going to be awake. And that’s sort of how our story has gone so far.

I’m not anxious anymore. You never were. You knew we had this in the bag. But you’re an old soul, and I’m not, so I’ll keep taking my tips from you, if that’s ok. I don’t know what changed this past week, but the weather cooled down, I took a deep breath, and strength filled up every bit of my lungs, and I knew that I’m a force to be reckoned with. The catalyst is obvious. I’ve got you, and you made sure I stuck around and stayed awake.

You and me, we never apologize for keeping our eyes big with wonder. You’re curious, and I’m naive, and we can’t help but trust the world, no matter how many times we end up barefoot and singing.



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