By Rachel Lippolis
To my son, in his first year of life:
I feel like I have to doubly preserve each moment with you — etch it into my mind — as you won’t remember these early months and years.
You won’t share my and your father’s memory of driving home from the hospital, me next to you in the backseat, hand on your chest. That night you threw up so suddenly that we called the doctor at 1 am to be reassured that you were fine. You won’t remember us camping in the living room for the next two weeks, barely showered, curtains closed; we watched you sleep, air going in and out of your little body, and we rejoiced in the small moments your eyes opened and looked straight at us as if you knew how happy you had made us.
You won’t remember a time when you couldn’t walk or control your body, but I’ve celebrated each milestone. From grabbing at objects at three months and rolling over at five months to crawling at eight months, I’m in constant awe of your development from a newborn totally dependent on me into a baby who can move where you want to. You love standing against the mirror, touching hands with your reflection. You love scooting onto my lap so I can read “Moo, Baa, La La La” for the fifth time in a day. You love listening to your father play guitar and grabbing at the strings.
Your first tooth arrived in April. My mom discovered it on her birthday. She was so tickled: “Gigi found your first tooth!” You have grandmas and grandpas and uncles and aunts and cousins (and one great-grandfather, age 101!) who celebrated your arrival and continue to love and support you as you get bigger. You won’t remember this fleeting period when you and your four boy-cousins were all three years and younger, but the rest of us were gaga for these little boys.
You won’t remember all the times we drove more than an hour east to Georgetown, Ohio, to visit your great-grandmother at the veteran’s nursing home. When she wasn’t upstairs playing bingo or in the dining room eating lunch, she was waiting for us in the front lobby. I hugged her hello, took you out of the stroller, and carefully placed you in her lap. She loved seeing you and holding you; you smiled and grabbed her face. In the spring we’d go outside, a caravan, her pushing you in the stroller and me pushing her in her wheelchair. I’m sorry you won’t get to know her as you grow up, but I am so grateful she got to know you before she passed away. I can’t wait to show you the dozens of pictures I took of the two of you together, telling you stories about her life.
You won’t remember the months you slept in a portable crib next to our bed. Your cries woke me up every two hours, and I nursed and cuddled you back to sleep. Each morning you woke, babbling happily, while I felt like I hadn’t slept since Spring 2016. I may have complained, but I wouldn’t trade one second of the time we spent together those dark, quiet nights. You finally slept seven hours straight the night my grandmother died, as if you understood what I needed.
Right now the world, to you, is a safe place, filled only with people who love you and try to keep you happy and safe. I’m nervous about the world you’ll inherit but hopeful that it will be on a trajectory toward a more just and peaceful place. And I hope you’ll have memories of a calm and happy childhood, full of family vacations, chapter books, bike rides, Lego sets, and hundreds of other quiet moments. Me, I’ll cherish these first years enough for the both of us.
Rachel Lippolis and her husband celebrated the birth of their first child last October. After her maternity leave, she returned to work part-time at a branch of the public library in Cincinnati.
Editor’s note: Rachel and I have been online friends since 2011, when I discovered her excellent blog and complimented her intelligent, clear writing on literature, baseball, politics and other topics. We finally got a chance to meet last spring when I visited Cincinnati at the end of a road trip I took to see Major League Baseball games in three Midwest cities. No surprise she’s a big Reds fan.
Tomorrow: David Quisenberry, The accidental manager