A Long Walk Down Ole Memory Lane

I started this past weekend with the sobering realization that I needed a major lesson in gratitude. 

"I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life."
- 1000 Gifts

That was me, too. 
I am a naturally optimistic person, but I think I tend to find optimism by looking forward. It can be challenging to find it right here, right now.

This is exam week for my husband, after a particularly challenging semester for him, academically speaking. And I miss him! On Sundays, our little family has had a longstanding tradition of going to the earliest mass at 7:30 am, getting coffee and bagels afterwards in the quiet morning (and a cookie to reward Will for any however feeble attempts at good behavior), and going for a long walk in our favorite park and its surrounding historic Charlotte neighborhood. 

Its almost always sunny on Sunday mornings. The streets are still sleepy, though the birds are increasingly louder as we slip into full-blown spring. We are alone with the exception of the occasional boxer-clad man letting his dog out with a yawn and a sleepy wave. We have walked for as many as 3 hours in this way. Will sometimes takes a little catnap in his BOB when he tires of aiming his little pointer-finger out from under the hood of the stroller at every cat or dog we pass, with dramatic intensity. Jason and I sip our coffee's as we stride briskly along the sidewalks, admiring our favorite old houses and dreaming out loud together. 

Besides dreaming of the vast, anything-can-happen future that sprawls mysteriously ahead of us, we talk about the past week, everything we may have been too tired or distracted to share, and we plan for the coming one... everything from the budget to doctor's visits, to study groups, to writing deadlines, to meal plans.

Obviously, my best-friend of a husband couldn't walk with us this weekend. But I was determined that I couldn't hang out at home anymore. When I do that, Monday comes and feels like the second Monday in a row I get to experience. Yippee.

I packed a "Nack" for Will (his favorite - white cheddar popcorn), and we drove out to Queens after his nap, picking up Jason's favorite huge spicy steak burrito from Chipotle. Ok I may have gotten a chicken and pinto burrito with guac on the side for myself as well. Sue me. I'm preggas. 

Jason had entrenched himself in the prettiest, windowiest classroom of the MBA building. It is a small circular "tower" room with walls of tall windows. We came in and said hi to him, and sat with him while he ate. Will managed to grab a pencil and leave the Mark of Will on an innocent desk. 

Then we left reluctantly, after a few hundred good-luck kisses, to the great frustration of the little man who plants himself between us on the ground and pushes against our legs with the ferocity of a small oxen. 

I loved feeling like I was near Jason as he worked. And I am so grateful to have Will on these days. I was surprised and delighted by how much he wanted to talk to me as we walked our route Daddy-less.

"No mo' nack!" - his latest phrase, of which he is pleased as punch.
His nack left a white cheddar residue all over his grubby paws, which greatly frustrated him. "Yucky doorty, Mommy." 

His intense little pointer-finger shot up to show me every airplane overhead (this dude's eyesight is unreal, though his word for airplane is totally unspellable and I have no idea where it came from - it sounds kind of like dior-dior? kind of?), every blossoming flower "wowa, wowa Mommy", every animal "meoww! caw-caw!". 

He listened with a gravely thoughtful face to everything I told him. He gave me a few polite kisses when we got back to the car after an hour. 

I'm sorry to bore anyone looking for something interesting to read with all this baby talk, but on my walk with this rapidly-growing son of mine, I realized with a heartsick thud how fast this season is speeding by... this sweet little season of just Will and I. I believed all those wise old mama's who said to me, "It flies by!", I did. I guess I thought it would feel just a little bit longer, since I really have attempted to live it to the full from the first skin-to-skin contact we had, when he was placed in my arms right after his first loud scream, and began blindly, instinctively rooting around with his starving mouth on my skin. I remember he lifted his head all the way up in his intensity as he banged it on me, trying to find his source of food, causing a gasp of astonishment from the nurses in our room. So strong and so intense.

How did we get from there to here?! The days have felt so long. The weeks too, sometimes. But then here we are, and I know once this new baby is born, Will will grow up even more overnight. Much as I can't wait to see him as a proud, bossy big brother, I would lie if I said I didn't tear up every time I realize my baby, my first baby, is being pried away from me daily, with each new milestone of growth. That's such a dramatic, pregnant way to put it! Dear Lord. 

 I want to cling to it, to soak it in, to write it down in every little minute detail. We have had so much time together in the past two years. We have come so far from the long, sleepy days of neverending breastfeeding, when my little black-haired baby would yell indignantly at me if I took seconds too long to get him attached and nursing. He would take a few desperate gulps and then lift his head again to shout at me in anger before nursing vigorously some more. (This is when I nursed him on the hour, so the dramatics were laughable). Those days of milk-drunk babies and sleep-deprived haze, of chubby thighs that cannot yet crawl and constant contact... days that I relive reading about Sarah's life with her little Liam. (My favorite, favorite new blog! I am just trying to control the major girl-crush I am developing on this sweet new mama and amazing writer.)

Little Will, who in his absolute bossiness and quick temper, earned the nickname "Mr. Baby" within weeks of his debut to the world, was always this ball of intensity, from day one, and I do feel that he has prepared me for anything this next baby could bring. At least, my goodness I hope so! With his strong-willed determination, his independence and his intelligent interest in the world, he has become the dearest, most interesting little companion I could've asked for with his Daddy so busy. 

And I am so thankful. Had I gone with my plans as I prepared to marry the love of my life at 21, had I waited on a baby while Jason started school and got his career really solidified, I would have missed out on more than I can begin to count. If I have to sacrifice time with the man who makes me happier than anybody else in the world, I am so happy to have our Mr. Baby to talk to and kiss all day. He really isn't Mr. Baby any longer, though I am choking up acknowledging this. He's just Will - a small child with a will of iron, an impressive ability to get filthier than any living creature without even trying, and a whole lot to say about everything. 
And when I think about how much I will love having him there with me as I get ready for a new newborn stage, I am unbelievably grateful. My days will be long and probably just as full of sleepiness and constant breastfeeding, but this time will have a sweet, interested little man to admire this new baby right alongside me, and he won't have to leave for work. ;)
I know it will be beautiful, and I'll read this post later and laugh at my dramatic emotions, but still...
I will be soaking up for dear life the last 3 and a half months Will and I have together as just us two. 

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