[That's September 2006 on the left; September 2009 on the right. Couldn't find the original doll, so we brought the creepy gray-haired wooden doll from Sweden that my son lovingly calls "Mr. Nack." He sleeps with that horrible thing.]
It hit me not long ago that I've been at this for three full years. Any hope that I might have once maintained of resuscitating my career as an attorney is long gone, and I don't even care. I used to imagine how I'd explain my choice to a recruiting committee, but now I can't imagine doing anything but shrugging and saying I wouldn't hire me either. The kid on the left of the picture above is now in school six hours a day, several days a week. The one on the right is the same age as she was when I quit my job and we started this little adventure. In three years, though, he'll be as big as she is now, and she'll be in school full time then. What will I do to justify myself?
I guess this knowledge makes our mornings special: his sister gone, her absence a reminder not only that this is our time, but that our time together is finite and that soon he'll start that slow separation and find other hands worth holding. See, every morning we walk the dog together and he holds my hand and I can't even attempt to articulate how much that means to me without feeling goddamn tears at the edge of my goddamn eyes. Goddamn. He scurries alongside me at a rifle pace, stumbling from time to time into an awkward arc back to flat feet. Whenever he falls he comes looking for hugs, and even when he doesn't fall and I ask him for one, he runs to me with his arms out. How long before he's too big for that? Paul Bowles once wrote, "Everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." I look at him sometimes and sense that limitlessness; he seems so unformed still, a chaotic universe still coming to terms with the infinite. But then I remember how limited my moments with him actually are: that hand reaching for mine along a craggy sidewalk; the leap from a tree into my arms; the repetition and recognition of words he'll only learn once.
Even the diaper changes are finite, I think, as he straddles a plastic throne, no different from the sleepless nights after he was born. It's not all bad. Indeed their developments are what make this experience so joyous. And I don't mean to whitewash how tedious things can be. But as tedious as they can be, I don't have the nerve to complain. I could annoy this kid for the next sixty years or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I respect either possibility.
Was there a time when I was even interested in bigger things? I could sit with him for an hour under a tree while he digs up bugs and tells me over and over that they are bugs. He loves creatures that howl and roar (and he loves showing me that he, too, is such a creature). If I pick up a book, he moonwalks into my lap. He is a patient audience, and even if we don't have a book with us I can recite his favorite from memory, and when I am done he touches my lips and says, "More."
What did ambition feel like again? It can't feel this good.