I used to the think space between years was just a long exhale, a breath. I solitary beat in a life that will have many, many beats. Nothing distinguishable from one inhale to the next.
But then, there was you.
Thirteen years ago, I spent every day with you, for nearly an entire year. Every lunch break, I spent feeding you. So many pints of blueberries. So many bowls of Panera Black Bean. And, every late night, I would roll on my side, feeling you hiccup, longing for sleep, but staring out the window and wondering just who you would be.
You were my Jingle-baby. My Christmas baby. Due right smack dab on my favorite day of the year. You were the gift that one waits for with the highest of hopes, but also with the slight edge of fear or doubt. The biggest mystery gift of them all. Who would you be? Who would I be? Who would *we* be, as a family?
This weekend, we had houseguests and busy nights with games and parties and brunches with old friends. It was a weekend where we relied on you to babysit, to keep the house in order, to help with keeping everyone who was born after you, in line and their parent’s homes not a complete wreck.
Before the commotion all started, on Thursday at dusk, you took your siblings to the Dollar Store to shop for small trinkets to give at a Yankee Swap for kids. But, you also came home with a bag of items, like hard candies, lotion and chapsticks. Items to donate to the Chemotherapy Bags that we’re collecting for at church. Items I haven’t even remembered yet, in my flustered must-return-all-of-the-portraits-now-and-also-make-Christmas-happen-for-my-kids state of mind.
But, there you were.
And, this morning, after a late night, you met me in the kitchen as I was unloading dishes from the dishwasher, and you took over, without my asking. And then, you took out the garbage. You stepped beside me and sniffed around the scents of potatoes and bacon and eggs, the breakfast I was groggily making, and gave encouraging praises of, “mmm, smells so good!” before you went and set the table to serve your siblings and our guests.
As I brought butter or a knife or something else to the table, I caught a part of a conversation – it was you, asking our friend, if she’d like for you to pull the table closer to you, so that it wouldn’t squeeze her so close to the wall. (The table had been pressed flush to the wall for the gathering the night before, and we hadn’t quite made that right, by that point.) But, you noticed, hey, she could be more comfortable.
And this is all very small and very simple, but the older that I get, the more that I am realizing it’s these small and simple considerations that make all of the difference, in every relationship.
Your father never needs to do grand gestures for me, so long as he continues to do these same simple things…asking where I’d prefer to sit, folding the laundry that I hate, washing the dishes after I’ve cooked, making sure that the minivan has gas (or running out and filling it before I need to leave in the morning). It’s the gift of seeing a need and acting, for others before yourself. Not all needs are big, and most will get you very little recognition in this life. But, they will make all of the difference in the world to those you love dearest.
(And you’d even be surprised by the impact that noticing and acting on the small needs in the world, can make ripples of positivity. Of goodness. Chapsticks and hard candy, bought by a twelve year-old boy, of his own volition, to give to those sitting in the most vulnerable and frightening of places.)
Thirteen years ago at this time, we wandered around craft stores, looking for ways to decorate your nursery, for ways to commemorate this person that we didn’t yet know, but already loved so completely.
We were young and poor and completely unsure of anything, *except* that there was no way that you *weren’t* coming out within the next three weeks. Your arrival was our only certainty. Everything else, a mystery, a gamble, a run-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, fake-it-’til-you-make-it fiasco.
And, in many ways, our lives still are.
Life kind of just, is.
But, while we have surely made a thousand mistakes in these past thirteen years, I watch you, daily, and am ever more impressed with the young man that you are, and I’m humbled to acknowledge, over and over, just how richly blessed we were that it was *you* who greeted us on that bitterly cold December morning. And how wonderful it is that you make the lives of those around you better, still, everyday.