Twelve Years: A Modern Day Love Story

Twelve years ago today I sat across from you at a restaurant for the first time. You had called earlier that week as I was watching That 70s Show with my roommate, trying to recall the face that belonged to the voice on the other end of the line. I had forgotten that I gave you my number when we met the previous weekend. Our conversation was brief. I didn’t know then that you can be shy, that you’re not much of a talker with people you don’t know.

I don’t remember every minute of our first date. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of it. I do remember that I instigated a lot of the conversation (12 years later and nothing’s changed). We went to a chain Mexican restaurant. You told me that you had made reservations at a little restaurant downtown but I was late and it was Saturday night. At times you seemed disinterested and I wondered why you asked me out at all. When you took me home at the end of the night you told me you would call that week. I didn’t expect to hear from you, but on Monday when I got home from classes your voice came through the answering machine asking if I wanted to go bowling.

That date was better. We began to talk daily and see each other every few days. I wondered when you would kiss me. One snowy day I happened to pass you between classes on campus. I was walking behind a building in a wooded area with winding walking trails. Snow clung to bare branches as students rushed by. When you saw me you smiled and made your way over. We talked for a few minutes and then you kissed me–quickly–before you said you had to go but would call later. Call you did, and the rest is history.

But things have changed, haven’t they? Our conversations of future dreams and making plans for the upcoming weekend have been replaced with reminders to pick up milk and bananas from the store, and did you pay this bill, and could you please for the love of God just throw the junk mail in the recycle bin instead of leaving it strewn all over the counter for me to wade through. We’ve all but lost sight of romantic gestures and inside jokes, the sweet nothings that shock a relationship with little volts of electricity. When we do talk in earnest, our conversations are interrupted with cries and whines and little hands reaching up to be held. Sometimes our words, benign as they might be, are splintered with the tight octave of accusation, one note above exhaustion.

We hardly ever watch movies anymore. And when we do at least one of us falls asleep halfway through. In the morning, you’re usually up and gone before any of us wakes up, and when you’re home I’m sometimes guilty of using you as a babysitter so I can go and do all the things that take too much effort with three kids. Remember when we lived in New York and we spent whole days strolling from the bookstore to lunch to the art museum only to come home and open a bottle of wine as we leisurely cooked dinner?

Now, the boys are almost always awake by 6:30, kicking their headboards and giggling across cribs. Mia, who has usually climbed into our bed at some point during the night, steals the blankets and buries her head. Then our day begins. Diapers are changed, mouths fed, dishes washed, laundry done, toys picked up only to be dumped again.

Luke has suddenly become attached to a blanket. He carries it everywhere. In twenty years, when we can again devote entire days to traipsing around the city if we so please, my body will ache to hold this little boy as he rubs the silky side of his blanket against his face. The visceral need to comb my fingers through Mia’s curls will find me when I’m engrossed in a novel for which I actually have time to read. And Wyatt. Wyatt has this way of staring at me as he “talks”, convincing me that the formless noises coming from his mouth are actual words — I just need to listen better, try harder to understand him. In twenty years, will he be telling me to listen better? To try harder to understand him?

I’ve heard it said that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. I get it. As much as I miss what we used to have, I miss what we have right now even more.

So things have changed in 12 years. Time has a way of doing that. Once, we were lovestruck college kids, then newlyweds, then adventurers. Then lovestruck new parents embarking on an adventure of a different kind. Now we are taking each day as it comes, marking time by diaper changes and bedtimes and chocolate stained clothing grown too small. We fall into bed each night with a soft “Good night.” It’s all we can manage before sleep overtakes us.

This isn’t forever — things always change, but will we remember each other when the fog has cleared? Will you still find me on the trail of a winter woods? Let’s just say that our love story is one in progress, evolving with the little people who shape and light our days, to be continued.

In Which I Reflect On Fifteen Months With Twins

I took the boys to the grocery store the other day, something I rarely do because 1) they’re so grabby! and 2) have you ever noticed that most shopping carts have one seat for one baby/toddler? I didn’t before I had twins. Clearly, mothers of multiples are discriminated against by mass market retailers. So, anyway, we were at the store quietly going about our business when a woman rushed up behind me and in one long breath wanted to know the following: are they fraternal (we don’t know), who’s older (Wyatt, by less than a minute), did I go into labor early (define “early”), and are they always this good (define “good”). And the whole time Wyatt flashed his baby blues and beamed up at her, while Luke squinted his into slits and stared her down.

“You have one who laughs at the world and one who studies it,” she said.

It was only later that I realized how spot on she was, which made me think how little I think of them as individuals. (And just when I think I’ve got them all figured out they go and switch personalities on me.) So, in honor of their 15-month birthdays, I am reflecting.

Wyatt,
My Baby A. A boy of light.

Your smile is usually the first thing people remark about you. A wide-open smile that spreads across your face and lights up your eyes. You like people. I mean, you are aware of them, of their attention, their presence, in a way that makes me think you get it. Just It. You say Mama and Hi. You’re working on Down and No. You’re a bubble of laughter and energy, and I can tell you’re going to be funny. You’re always happy, always game, always willing to walk into someone’s arms. You do this movement (a dance?) that resembles a surfer in slow motion. Sometimes you walk backwards just because. You scream. When you’re happy, when you’re mad, when you’re tired or hungry, or in response to other screams or noises that resemble screams. Mia likes to say, “I think our neighbors heard that one.”

The other day when we were playing, you stopped what you were doing like you had just decided something, walked up to me and kissed me square on the mouth. Then you smiled and did it again before moving on. Confession: I don’t remember the first time your sister kissed me and meant it. Luke has yet to do it. But this one? This was one glorious first kiss.

Luke,
My Baby B. A boy of sweetness.

In many ways I consider you our bonus baby. The one we didn’t plan for, the one who took us by surprise. The one who negotiated behind the scenes to come along for the ride. Whereas your brother came into the world screaming (see above), you were silent. “Why isn’t he crying?” I asked. And then the NICU nurse was talking to your Dad, and you were whisked away before I ever saw you (or heard you). You are still the quietest of our three. You’re the cuddliest too, melting into me when I hold you, your head nestled into the crook of my neck, your curls tickling my cheek. You study everything, inspect the workings of toys, crawl into narrow crevices, discover hidden wires, flop on your stomach to investigate the underbellies of furniture.

You’re a pickier eater than your brother but not as picky as your sister. You drop your food off your tray and I say no. You smile. You climb the pillows to get to the window blinds and I say no. You smile. You open drawers, pull out all the contents and I say no. You smile. When I walk into the room you wave with both hands and say, Hiiiiiiii. When you want to be held you say Mama. Had you not come along for the ride, I believe I always would have felt there was another soul out there waiting for us to find him. To find you.

*I had planned to post this two days ago but Luke got sick, then Wyatt got sick. And, as you can imagine, it’s incredibly easy to got loads of stuff done with two little people attached to you at all times.

5

Dear Mia,
Here we are, six months into 5 and part of me is still clinging to 4. While you jumped happily to 5 I quietly stole glances at a baby you in my rear view mirror.

I know why you left 4 behind without so much as a glance over your shoulder. I get it. 4 brought not one but two baby brothers. Two baby brothers who cried at all hours of the night, waking you up at midnight, 3 a.m., 6 a.m. Two baby brothers whose round eyes and tiny fingers tempted visitors away from you. Two baby brothers who needed me to hold them, feed them, change them, walk with them. And there were never enough arms. There was never enough sleep. There was never enough me. 4 was a blur. 4 is the year I wish I could do over. Somehow I would make more time. But I didn’t, and I can’t, and now I’m left with vague memories and few pictures.
The one defining memory of your year of 4 was when we took you to New York for the first time last fall, leaving your grandmothers to split duty between the boys. The joy in your smile, your step, the way you nuzzled the back of my hand with your nose, filled me to overflowing but also made it painfully clear how much we had not been with you, not devoted ourselves to you. That trip was a blessing, the way we were able to pause life as it had become, and just be. This is the reason I started this blog, really. To capture you and your brothers in the moment, to be present, to remember.
5 has brought attitude, independence, a certain lilt to your voice slanting surely to 16. You check the tags of your clothing now to be sure they say 5, though XS is acceptable. 6 is better, 4 suddenly too small. You choose your own outfits and won’t be edited so I don’t try (mostly). You talk about boyfriends and love. You tell me a boy in your class is your boyfriend and I ask what that means. “It means we play together and have fun.” And this is true so we don’t say anymore about it as you toss the stone and skip to 5 on our hopscotch.
When you were 3 you asked when you could ride a school bus. “When you’re five,” I said. And then I blinked and you were climbing the steps of the bus, waving at me from your seat. The one without a seat belt. The one whose driver I did not know. This was the first of letting go. The first of trusting the world and fate to hold you and carry you home to me.
Every day you take one more step away from 4, one more closer to 6, and I continue to play catch-up. But tonight you will still ask for an “appletizer” before dinner. Spanish-speaking people will still be from Spanishland. And you will still ask if five minutes is a short time or a long time (and won’t accept my answer of “It depends”). Tonight I will lay in bed with you and sing Winter Wonderland as I have every night for the past five and a half years, embracing our version that has morphed through the years into a Katy Perry Christmas mix.
xo,
Mommy