That’s how old Abram Adrien is. Two and a whole entire half. And Louis will be four months in a handful of days. That’s a third of a year. Seriously. I just counted the months to be sure that math is solid and it is. So my children are growing and – like every other parent in the world – I find this baffling. Here’s a quick update on what this moment looks like.
Bram: This kid changes every day. He is obsessed with “machines”: he watches for real ones out in the world, builds complex, towering ones out of Duplos, creates them with his Imaginets set, and draws them with thick, bold, heavy magic marker strokes. “This is a toucan leaver. It leaves toucans alone.” “This is a grass picker. It picks grass.” The one below “is a cherry picker. It’s helping to build this building.”*
There are a thousand machines and they do things that clearly need doing. You know, like leaving birds alone. When he made this machine:
we had this conversation:
Me: What is it?
B: A machine I’ve never seen before.
Me: Cool! What does it do?
B: It picks up cash.
Me: What is cash?
B: A kind of money.
Me: Okay. Can I have one of those machines?
Me: How much cash will it pick up for me?
Me: Five what?
B: Five monies.
He’s also still recovering from his first stomach bug. This was hell, of course. It started on my birthday (literally: at midnight on my birthday). He vomited On Me for Two Straight Days. Then it came in other ways. He ate almost nothing for the best part of a week. On one of his first nights in the clear, I woke up at midnight to a gagging sound coming from his room. I ran in to find him on his knees leaning against his bed spitting saliva out as if he were vomiting. It has been almost as crushing to watch him process this as it was to watch him suffer from it. As my dear friend MH said, this was when Bram learned that his body can betray him. Oh that lesson, my Bug. You’ll keep learning that one. Even now, when he needs to go to the potty he panics a little and says, “I’m still sick!” It will just about break your heart.
Still, two-and-a-half finds him a bright-eyed, music-loving (he can seriously memorize a song just by hearing it twice), sucessfully-pottying, funny (he says “I am cracking myself up!”), firefly-obsessed, puzzle-mastering, happy, affectionate little boy.
Little Louis seems also to be thriving. He is still so quick to smile, though he’s stingy with the laughs. He could watch Bram till the sun goes down and he loves (snugs, flirts, nestles) with the abandon of a content four-month-old being. His eyes are so big I’m almost sure his donor was an owl, so we call him Birdie a lot. He is calm but loud as a screech owl when he’s hungry. He’s in the ninth percentile for weight now because my wife is a powerfully devoted pomo. He’s rolling over and grasping things and doing all the stuff that I thought would fail to thrill me this time around but which is just (or at least almost) as delightful. And he’s getting his very first tiny bit of pudge. I have fat baby hopes again, and I am in love.
For my part, it’s been nice being off-line. If I’m not flying through books again, I’m at least walking with purpose. I am lonesome, but in a way that feels tolerable and interesting and honest. It’s been an emotional couple of weeks (among other things, we sent our beloved friend and sitter Grace off to Cambodia for ten months, which is a great loss), but I’m finding myself deeply engaged and committed to serenity, which is not a concept I’ve thought a lot about in the past. My world feels quieter, more still, more finite, and so there’s been more time in my head. I’m struggling some with what I guess I would describe as a heightened sense of my own failures (though not in a way that feels critical, exactly; more in a way that feels observant). I find friendship a little baffling right now. I feel not quite smart enough, not quite kind enough (despite my best intentions), not quite on the same page as most people.
We were on a walk a couple of days ago with one of our very favorite families, and my very favorite five-year-old, who knows us well and is extremely intelligent, said out of the blue, “J should be Bram’s mama and you should be his pomo because she is his mom.” His mom and I explained that parents get to pick their parental moniker. Later I realized we missed it. I should have said that you don’t have to give birth to be a mom. Because that’s what was tripping him up. That was the question beneath his question. This is how I feel a lot of the time: like I get close to handling things well, but I fall always just a little bit short. Or, on bad days, more short than that. I drop so many balls (but so far no babies). I hurt people without meaning to. I try to explain myself and fail. I’m not sure whether the goal is to strive harder or make peace with the Good Enough.
But alongside my failures, there’s so much fresh basil in my kitchen, and my joyful mom was here on Thursday. The boys’ Aunt Madeline came yesterday and Bram is Mad-Mad-Madly in Love with her. We took Bram to his first baseball game yesterday with some really great friends, and I think we made it through four innings before he felt too overwhelmed to stay. This morning, I walked to get coffee with the boys (Lou is finally really digging being on my back) and then Bram and I shelled pistachios for pesto and peas for paella, and he sorted shell from nut and vegetable so lovingly it made my heart ache (though he ate as many pistachios as he put in the bowl, of course, so it took a hundred hours). We’ve been invited to a pool party this afternoon and another summer gathering tomorrow. The livin’ ain’t exactly easy, but it is (in my dad’s linguistic style) good good.
* Speaking of cherry pickers, they’re doing some construction at the school near the playground in our neighborhood, so they’ve had crane trucks there for weeks. A few weekends back, we took a walk and found the construction site abandoned and one of the cherry pickers low to the ground. Being my parents’ child, I set Bram in it. Because if you’re Bram that’s pretty much amazing. Then he had an accident. He peed in the cherry picker. A lot. But because the universe is sometimes kind, it immediately started to storm. One of the dear friends we were walking with even had to run home for the car because the rain was too intense to walk in. The cherry picker was old anyway. And by Monday morning, I’m sure the urine was all washed away. What I’m not sure of is whether or not J will ever let me live this story down.