i waited, of course, till a day so bitterly cold i needed an arctic parka to climb into the attic. but it was time, so i climbed.
the baby is coming.
the baby i’ve believed in all of these years. the baby i loved long before she was even two cells or a clump of cells, or a wee beating heart. i loved her back when she was simply an idea, a wisp of a dream ballooned into hope.
all these years, despite the groans of the attic floorboards, as they took on more and more weight from all of the boxes i stubbornly clung to, despite the urgings from my mama to give it away, to not hold on to things i no longer need.
i ignored the groans and the whispers. defiant, i was. believer, i am.
i knew–i hoped–some day that baby would come.
and now she’s two months away.
and so it was time, time to poke through the attic, to search through and find the box after box that held every fine thing you’d need for the start of a life with a baby.
there were diapers and burp cloths and wee hooded bath towels. wash cloths and socks the size of a match box. onesies and undershirts that tie with a ribbon.
there were blankets all soft and flannel and easter-egg colors, and ones that were woven and white and thick for a night that is chilly.
there was the one blanket, a patchwork of swatches, i wrapped both of my boys in, for the long drive home, three miles at best, from the place where they’re born to the place where you’re left all alone to figure out babies.
there were hats that had never been worn, and booties too. and the chair, checked and italian, that was the one place, besides my chest, where they’d sleep.
there were jammies so little they still make my knees go weak. and box after box, filled with fabric and stitches that all told a story.
took a long time, the corralling of baby things, the collecting of dreams. nearly each one i held and remembered. remembered the hot summer day, or the cold winter morn, when a round little bottom i slipped in those pants, or the bald wispy head i snapped into that white droopy hat.
wasn’t long, though, before i’d slipped into some sort of a trance, an auntie trance i suppose. a meditative prayer and a poem, a tai chi of memory and muscles, as i sifted through boxes and dreams, got ready to ship the whole load from my house to the one where she’s coming before the robins return.
i would have if i could have, slipped my whole self in those boxes, as i climbed down from the attic and dove into the laundering, the rinsing, the starting out fresh. the purification, a ritual unnecessary but wholly essential.
i bought a new box of dreft, just for the baby. hadn’t had reason to use it in quite a long time. and the scent from the box, the powdery softness of clean-baby pureness, well it filled up the washer, and all of the dimly-lit basement besides.
when it came time to fold and to pack, i remembered one final time, maybe. some of these things, i’ll not hold again, chances are.
each one of them, i’d known a very long time, since the days when my own dreams were born. even before.
and, at long last, there i was in the laundry room, letting go of my baby things.
but because i was packing for baby–we call her baby L, L is for light, among other ideas–i didn’t feel a pinch in my heart, well, not much of one anyway.
filled five boxes by the end of that fine afternoon.
each box i filled as if a holy chalice. lined the bottom with soft tissue paper. tucked baby soaps and powders and lotions, all in wee little bottles and paper-wrapped bars, into the stacks and the layers, so each box would, by the end of the trip, be a trans-continental sachet.
by the time it gets up to maine, why, it’ll smell just like a nursery should smell. the barest whiff of baby and sunshine, with a smidge of the honey of beehives.
on top of each box, as if a christening, i sprinkled a handful of dried peony petals, the palest of pink and the deepest of fuchsia, ones i’d saved from my garden back in july, when i couldn’t bear to let the blooms go straight to the compost heap.
and then, whispering blessings, i taped and addressed each box. marked one or two with very big hearts. finally hauled every one off to the shipping place.
oh, if i could have, i would have climbed right into one of those boxes, been there on the other end to keep watch from a corner.
see, i won’t be there every day for this sweet blessed baby. i won’t get to know which finger it is she most likes to suck on. or just how she stretches her arms. or pokes her bottom into the air when she sleeps. i won’t hear her coo, or hiccup. won’t watch her take in her very first butterfly or snowflake or daisy. won’t see her wrap her thumb ‘round my brother’s.
it aches me to think i’ll be only her faraway auntie. for she is, in so many ways, the answer to so many dreams. a bundle of so many chapters of love.
but i will, in my own folded-up way, get to be there, tucked on the shelves of the changing table, and slid on the shelves of the cabinet my brother is building from ash and from cherry.
i will be there as her mama slips on that white floppy hat, or slings on the backpack the color of glow-in-the-dark pumpkins. i will be there in the burp cloths, and maybe just maybe when she’s rubbed dry from the bath.
i saved all those treasures for all of those years. because i knew some day, i believed, there’d be a baby.
and i didn’t want to not be there at every burp and cry in the night. couldn’t bear to be merely the faraway auntie.
that little girl has my heart. i packed it up in one of the boxes. it’ll arrive with a thud on the doorstep any day now.
once we were a people who all hunkered down in the very same village, raised our children together, a dream my brother and i once shared, long long ago. now, we live whole land masses away. so we sift through our lives and find threads to connect us. do you have babies growing up far far away from your every day? how do you dwell in their midst?