Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Regular Day

Two things happened yesterday, a Wednesday.

John dismantled the crib and replaced it with a mattress on the floor of Ellie’s room. She’s been waking up every night and coming into our bed, and we suspect it’s partly because the crib—set up like a toddler bed for the past couple months—just isn’t comfortable anymore. There is no sheet to cover her growing two-year-old body, no comforter to be wrapped up in, no pillow to lean on, even though we did put one in there. So we thought switching to a real bed might help. But since we haven’t bought any other furniture, it’s a twin-size mattress on the floor for now. Pink, gold, and teal polka-dot comforter from Target, pink fluffy pillow, new sheets.

This all happens while I’m sitting at Starbucks, finishing an article I have due. I come home and walk into her small bedroom—the changing table, the rocking chair, and other remnants of a nursery still visible—and at first I’m excited. How cute it looks! Should we add twinkle lights? Some netting, to make it look like a tent? To make it look like one of those cozy nooks you save on Pinterest, and think, maybe, someday. When she’s old enough.

But then I look in the closet. And it’s all there: The crib, in pieces—big ones, and small ones, the bars flat up against the wall. The box full of her brother’s baby clothes (coming home outfit, first walk outside outfit) is sitting there too.

Just like that, it’s gone. That crib that’s been there for 5 years. More, if you count the months it sat set up and empty, waiting for its first occupant, and then its second. The crib where we put them as 4 month olds, as 6 month olds, as 12 month olds. That we covered in pacifiers for Ellie, so she could find them in the middle of the night. That we worried Luca would climb out of, even though he never did. That we lined with blue sheets, and green sheets, and grey chevron-patterned sheets. That we leaned too far into as we put one down, then the other, holding our breath the whole time.

There are pictures that stand out: The one of Luca waking up, dressed in only a diaper. The one of him on his first birthday, balloons in hand. The one of the two of them, sitting inside the crib paging through books—something they did every morning for months.

And there it is, and there it goes. And that’s how it goes, I guess.

Later that night, I’m in Luca’s bedroom with him as he gets ready for bed. He was about the same age as Ellie when we switched him to the bed he’s in now—this boy who now takes the bus to school, who is up for his first taekwando belt test. Camping comforter from Target, fox pillow, blue sheets.

Every day, he comes home from school with a blue pouch full of books. One about a day at the beach, another about insects, another about hippos. The sentences are short and repetitive; there are power words, sight words, whatever you want to call them. He’s a 3Y reader now, which means something important, they say—and means it’s working, since he was 2Y just two weeks ago.

He starts reading, quickly flipping through the pages, getting stuck on a few words here and there, but mostly making sense of all of them. Are, the, hippo, water, waves, hat.

I think about all the books I’ve read over the years that meant something to me: Bridge to Terabithia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, On the Road, What She Saw, Bird by Bird. How all those first words added up to summers spent reading in the backyard, to airplane rides to Italy with a stack of Superspecials, to a day in bed during the first trimester of my first pregnancy, reading, and reading, and reading. How lucky he is, to be on the brink of all that, I think.  

Then Ellie walks in, with a Sesame Street book about colors in her toddler-sized hands. It’s not a book from Luca’s pouch, from his reading list. But we lie there in bed, me in the middle and one of them on each side—and he reads it to her. He asks her questions, gets her to point to the colors. She claps her hands when she gets them right, and he quickly picks up on the pattern of the story, doesn’t miss a word.

There was a quote in a beautiful article I read today about the tooth fairy and baby teeth: “Sometimes I just hold them. Noah’s in one hand. Eli’s in the other. Proof of their babyhood. Proof of the mouths they left behind.”

And I think how true, how true, how true. Baby teeth, cribs, first words, first books.

They say it all moves so fast, which it does. But sometimes, not fast enough that we don’t stop and see what’s happening all around us, as it happens. As we pick up Cheerios from the floor, as we step on broken crayons in the middle of the living room, as we fold crib sheets and put them away.

So here we are, when a regular Wednesday becomes a milestone, one to remember. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just another day, in a long line of endings and firsts—that sometimes we notice, and sometimes we don’t.  

But that mostly, we’re glad we get.

Photo by Nicole Angelova on Unsplash