My anniversary is this Sunday.
You know how I am always going on and on about how I never thought that I would get married? Well. I didn’t. I never thought I would get married. So guess what else? I never even considered having an anniversary.
That day, my soon to be sister-in-law zipped up my dress, and I went off to meet my soon-to-be husband to take pictures– because we don’t believe in those silly superstitions– and he was standing in a field, and I was supposed to sneak up on him so that the photographer could get that first picture of us seeing each other.
I don’t remember a whole lot from that day. It’s all kind of a blur. But I do remember this kiss. I remember it because I was thinking, “This is it. After this– everything changes.”
The other night we were lying in bed, and Mitch asked me what the best day of my life was.
He wasn’t asking me this just to be cute. I’ve been having a very hard time lately. My favorite poet, Leonard Cohen, says that “There is a crack in everything– that’s how the light gets in.” That’s been one of my life’s mottoes. It reminds me that it’s okay when things aren’t perfect.
But sometimes, things get broken. Sometimes they can be fixed– and sometimes they can’t. And sometimes…. sometimes it isn’t worth it. That’s the hard part; knowing when it isn’t worth it.
Recently, there have been two major parts of my life that have become broken. I’m still trying to decide if they’re worth fixing– if it would be better to move on, and what the landscape of my world would look like if I did. It’s like the 13th step. Having the serenity to accept that you maybe could change things, having the wisdom to know you probably shouldn’t, and having the courage to walk away.
Anyway. Mitch asked me what the best day of my life was, to try to focus me, to help me see what is really important.
It made me a little sad that I didn’t have a fast answer.
With the anniversary coming up, I suppose that I should have said our wedding. But really– who ever has a perfect day on their wedding day? The best part of that whole week was the NEXT day, when I woke up next to my husband and he said, “Hello, wifey.”
Obviously, the day that Maren was born is the easy answer. But really? That day, in whole, was a miserable, miserable day. Totally worth it, and I’d do it again every day of my life just to have her for a few minutes– but I’m not in a place yet where I can say that it was the best day of my life.
But. The best moment of my life was that day.
After the c-section, they took Maren away. She was still Skirty at that point– and they took her away from me, put her in the warmer and cleaned her up and measured her and all those things– and I still hadn’t seen her entirely. All I’d seen was her legs up over the screen when they first pulled her out. Mitch went with her, taking videos and snapping pictures, and that’s how I saw my daughter for the first time, on the video.
And then they wrapped her up and Mitch brought her to me and I was able to snuggle and cuddle with her a little bit. They untaped one of my arms so that I could touch her, and I kissed her face and cried into her hair and told her that I loved her.
That was it, probably. It’s right up there.
But when Mitch asked me, the first thing that really came to mind is the first time I held her.
Mitch and Skirty left to go to the nursery, and they did all kinds of tests and finished weighing her and doing whatever else needed to be done. They finished up with me and took me back to my room, and I waited for them to bring me the baby.
When they finally did, it was just me, Mitch, and Maren (her name was Maren now).
They put her in my arms. Her little eyes were closed, and her little face that looked so much like her Dad’s was all screwed up tight.
“Maybe you should try to nurse her.” The nurse suggested, and I stared at my baby like she was a very complicated puzzle.
“Okay,” I said, and Maren opened her eyes at the sound of my voice.
I don’t know how to describe the look in her eyes.
There was nothing ‘newborn’ about it. She didn’t loll around, she didn’t fall right back asleep. Her head didn’t fall back or down on her shoulders. She looked straight at me, and her eyes were focused, clear, and present.
I took my breast and kind of handed it to her– I had no idea what I was doing. She kept her eyes on mine, and just opened her mouth and started to suck. Then she moved her eyes to the side and looked at her Dad, and then back at me.
“Hello, little one.” I said, and she continued to stare at me. Not surprised, not bewildered. No fear or panic…. no questions.
Mitch and I have joked that since we had Maren, it’s all seemed like one continuous day. We’ve only had one night of sleep; the night that my in-laws got us a hotel room and took Maren over night. And even though we joke about it, I realized that it’s true– life isn’t really days. It’s just a lot of moments strung together by the strings that hold us to our lives. The moments that stick out to us are the ones that are attached to the strongest ties, and they pull on us for a long time.
One time when I was really little, my brother and I and a few friends walked four blocks to Highway 75 in our hometown. That’s where I had to stop, because I wasn’t allowed to cross the highway. But Vinnie was, and so we gave him all our quarters and he walked across and came back with root beer barrels, licorice, and strawberry soda. We went and laid down in the back yard and looked at the sky through the leaves and sucked on root beer barrels till our tongues were raw.
And one time in high school I worked really really hard as the student director for the musical, and it was really hard for me because I really wanted to be a lead, but I just wasn’t good enough– but I ended up really loving being the student director. And on the last night of the show, the cast gave me a huge bouquet of white roses and called me out on stage, and everyone clapped. So I got to feel like a Star, anyway.
And one time when we were kids, we used to go to my Dad’s friends house on the 4th of July and the grown ups would play rock music on their guitars and drums, and the kids would all run around and play in the backyard. And then at some point, all the kids would be asleep in the basement, the electronic sounds of Atari bouncing off our faces. And my little sister and I would sneak out and hide under the picnic table, so that we could still listen to the music.
There aren’t any cracks in those moments. Just lots of light.
Sometimes, when it’s been a really hard day, I hold on to my daughter and I try to reason out how to keep her from the most pain. How to protect her from confusion, how to make her proud of who she is instead of ashamed. I don’t want her to have to learn little adages about how it’s okay to be broken just a little bit– I wish there was a way to keep her from being broken at all.
I wish that, when she’s 26 and lost and scared and confused, I wish that I could remind her what that first moment with me was like. I wish that I could hold on to her and say, “It was a miserable, miserable day. And I was tired, and smelled bad, and hadn’t eaten in days, and I was so scared for you, and so exhausted– and then they put you in my arms and all that mattered was that I get you to eat. And that was a panic for me, because I didn’t know how to make you eat– but you did. So we worked together.”
I wish that there was a nice, non-co-dependent, non-creepy way to communicate to my daughter how safe she made me feel when she ate for the first time.
I hope that when her Dad asks her, “What was the best day of your life?” She has so many answers that she doesn’t even know where to start.
And I hope that for me, too.