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.