On Saturday night I stayed up irresponsibly late watching a movie with my husband. In our defense, we didn’t know it was three hours long when we started it. And for the prosecution, we don’t really have the luxury to be careless about such things. At any rate, we were dozing off at about one in the morning. I lay in bed, in the dark, feeling the dark edges of sleep creeping in to pull me down.
And that’s when the baby starts crying. I wait for a moment, just long enough to verify my husband’s regular breathing and that this isn’t going to be the one-percent-of-the-time when baby puts himself back to sleep. So, I climb out of bed and step into my house slippers. I’m frustrated because I should’ve already been sleeping for hours. But he smells so good when I scoop him out of bed, the warm sleepy baby smell that is only my baby. And I’m so tired, I can still feel the sleep on me, but he’s so precious as I pull a blanket over both of us. And I’m suddenly struck with the realization. “You’re my last baby,” I whisper into the fuzz on his head. “You’re my last baby,” I whisper into his neck.
And only we two know so well where the spot lies in the crook of my arm that is the best for his head. And my milk is long to come. It’s been getting thinner lately and he’s becoming less interested. His eight baby teeth tighten and I wince. And I think with thankfulness how we won’t be doing this much longer, at some point these feedings have got to stop. And his fingernails scratch me so that I have to take his hand and hold it in a tiny fist on my chest. I kiss the dimple at the end of each finger. And I think with sadness how we won’t be doing this much longer and at some point these feedings are going to stop.
And I try through the dark, through the sleepiness, to remember this. I pray that God will help me remember this. But I know I won’t, not like I want to. Because I have already forgotten that particular baby smell that was the other two, the unique line of cheek that would one day be the hollow between face and throat, what it felt like to hold their tiny newborn heads in the palm of my hand, sleeping on my chest. Haven’t I already learned that this moment is not for remembering? It’s for living in. And, suddenly, it’s so much, right there, up close, too much right there, up close.
And I know there’s a reason that the women who tell me to “enjoy it” and remember” are farther away from this where the picture is bigger, there isn’t so much, anymore, right there, up close. You need distance to see. And that reminds me of earlier.
We went for a walk to Land’s End Lookout. The sun was bright and the breeze was chill. I felt my spirit inflate with the first waft of eucalyptus and sea salt. The long line of ocean beach ran away from us on one side and the prehistoric foliage of the Presidio towered over us on the other. And there was a red tailed hawk above me, motionless, belly riding the wind that, like the surf, had traveled across the Pacific to break over the sudden rocks and jutting trees. And I thought how nice it must be to pull up whenever you need to get away and grab a look at the big picture, when you can’t see the mice for the trees and for all that is there, right there, up close.
And church this morning was about Paul and how Jesus asked, “Paul, Paul, Why do you persecute me?” not “followers”, or “apostles”. He said “me”. And right now, in this moment, Jesus is victorious and weary, joyous and saddened in a planet’s population of ways. So much right there, up close.
And, and, and … Thank Jesus he understands being “both-and”.
And I think of my hawk, how the same wind that is pushing him down is the same wind that is lifting him up and holding him right there in that moment, still.
Like me in the dark with my baby, held motionless in this particular now.