The Hard and the Sweet

I may have something slightly wrong with me because my “sweetest days” are all ones I’m simultaneously glad I never have to go through again, but am also sad I can never get back.

Take my the first few months of my first daughter’s life, for example. Does anyone know what she’s doing as a brand-new mother? I certainly didn’t. My daughter was born screaming, and she didn’t stop for the next four and a half months. She screamed in her pram as I walked her down the high street. She screamed most of the night and a whole heap during the day. She screamed when she was hungry, tired, during baby massage, and, sometimes, just to get me, she’d interrupt nursing to voice her royal discontent. Our neighbor was a social worker and she used to knock on my door periodically, just to check “that everything was alright.” I think she couldn’t believe I wasn’t sticking my baby with pins or something. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it, either.

I was in England, far from my family, far from all my close friends. About the only time my daughter didn’t scream was when we took long hikes together across the Heath, the baby snuggled into her pouch, me huffing and puffing. It was early autumn, just like now, and the light was golden, the leaves were falling, and the air had that tiny little bite in it that let you know you’d better enjoy the good times while you could because months of English cold, dark misery were right there on the horizon.

My life is so different now. I finished the novel I was working on in between all the screaming, and, hey, it’s going to be published! I have more children, am back in the U.S., and winter for me now consists of poetic rain and fog, West coast style. All my kids are too big to carry very far.

But, you know, I miss those afternoons kicking through leaves, my daughter’s infant body bundled against my chest like a second heart. One day she’ll quit crying, I’d tell myself, and, of course, she did. She’s lovely now, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except, I’m a little sorry that this piece of my story’s been finished. Unlike the draft of a novel, I can’t go back and revise. I can’t rework things. I can only reread, wishing, like I do with my very favorite books, that it was for the first time all over again.

5 Replies to “The Hard and the Sweet”

  1. Aw, Tiffany …. You always make me cry … just a little … in a good way! Your writing is so moving and your stories so powerful. And I have the feeling you are as present and absorbing (and simultaneously loving and struggling through) whatever days you are in at the moment.

    It’s nice to get to know you.

  2. so poignant, Tiffany, and I know exactly what you mean. My firstborn arrived as summer was waning, and with it that sense of things sort of lost. I felt so very lost myself, thoroughly incapable of any sense of competency in my new assignation as mother. I remember one Sunday as my son screamed endlessly just rocking in a chair, tears streaming down my face, thoroughly clueless about how to fix what had obviously been broken with me, with him, with everything. At that very moment it was so hard to see the enormous blessing that had roared into my life, and I remember with such wistfulness the joy and sorrow of that moment, never to be experienced again. And now instead I wonder in the middle of the night if he’s found himself safely back to his dormitory bed, if he’s eating, if he’s sleeping, if he’s doing his homework, and I know for a fact that my involvement in his life is officially peripheral from hereon out.

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