Sometime before H’s first birthday, he helped me decorate the white craft paper we used as wrapping paper for his birthday present. We worked alongside each other in crayon, me making polka dots and H making marks. My heart thrilled watching him make short and long, faint and strong, and straight and crooked scribbles over my dots. I felt there could be no better marks in all the world than the ones coming from H’s hand.
Sometime after H’s first birthday, we received a mysterious gift. Someone left two hand made paper cones for us, one each on our front and back stoops. They were fashioned haphazardly, the edges mismatched at the top, each held together by a single, short piece of Scotch tape. One cone was decorated with repeating patterns of shapes, but the other had only scribbles, just like the ones H had made on his wrapping paper. I don’t know who gave the cones to us. H and I talked to our neighbors on either side, both likely candidates because of their young children, but neither knew anything about them. Both had received similar cones and thought they had been from H. The cone giver remains a mystery.
I thought a lot about those cones around the time we received them. I even kept them for a while. I enjoyed turning them over in my hands and thinking about the child who made them. How old was he? Was the child a she and not a he? Was she anything like H? Most of all, my heart felt happy at the possibility that this mystery child’s parents thought the marks on the cones were as lovely as I found H’s and that somewhere out there was someone just as loved.
Love. H has taught me what unconditional love is. He has never had to do anything or be anything different than who he is, and I love him. I often long for moments with H to stop or at the very least slow down. I want to remember everything forever, including the quality of my love for him, but everything is happening so fast and so much has been lost already in the fog of my mind. And so I write. It is like a meditation, a way of being in at least a few moments longer than I would be otherwise, and it is as close to stopping time as I have found. I imagine reading these stories years later, the memories fresh and vivid for having spent the time it takes to capture them in words. I imagine H reading them someday and smiling at the things he did and was but won’t remember.
The stories I write about H are ordinary moments made extraordinary to me by the fact that he is my baby. He is growing and developing in his own way and at his own pace, yes, but he is growing and developing just as all babies grow and develop. In a way, it is astounding that he pulls his hands midline or stands unassisted, but in another way, it is nothing special at all. He is not he first baby to do these things, nor will he be the last.
Sometimes I feel self conscious sharing these stories. “They are too ordinary,” I tell myself. “No one will care about this. Everyone will think I am making too big a deal about nothing. It’s silly to write so big about something so small.” But then I think about the marks on the mysterious cones and the child out there somewhere who made them. I think about how much joy H’s marks bring me. I think about all children everywhere and imagine them as loved as I love H. The cones are a reminder that I am not alone. There are millions of parents out there shepherding millions of littles through life, and I am connected to every one of them through H and all of the big and small things he does and through the love I have for him. There is nothing small about this, and, from that perspective, there is nothing too small to celebrate. And so I write.