and became like blood in my body.
It rushed through my veins and
encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked,
I saw one thing.
The Beloved’s name written
on my limbs.
on my left palm,
on my forehead,
on the back of my neck,
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell.
The rest belongs to love.
I held him in my arms longer than I usually do, watching as his eyelids closed, heavy. His body wrapped across my chest, his legs dangling limply out the sides and I thought how this would probably be the last year I could hold him like this. It would be the last birthday eve I’d rock him like this – cradled up in that baby way. His lips parted slightly, his breathing turned deep and like it does every year on the eve of my children’s birthdays, my heart took a sentimental dive into how it feels to love them.
I laid beside his cot on the rug in his room, watching him sleeping, and I stumbled upon an old Instagram hashtag I kept of his babyhood photos. I got tangled up for a good hour until Joel got home, diving into memories of how things used to be. Even though I promised myself I’d savour it, I’d remember him, I’d remember how it felt, the truth is, I don’t. I looked at those photos and I didn’t know who that baby was anymore. I don’t remember how he used to be, I don’t remember when it was he changed. That baby is gone, and that is such a painful part of motherhood. But that baby gets replaced with the Billy before me now, and that is motherhood’s redemption. This ride we’re on — it’s continually grieving and letting go of each different version of our children while simultaneously delighting in and getting to know the version we have before us.
“Are you okay in there?” Joel texted when he finally got home, walked past the open door of Billy’s room and I barely noticed.
I stumbled out and mentioned something about having another baby, but only because I was delirious.
And so it was that our boy turned two yesterday. It’s not all newborn smells and sleeping-on-chest-while-it-storms-outside moments forever. The Billy we love today loves cars, chocolate ice cream and his grandpas.
But most of all, Billy loves Ella.
If I yell out, “Who loves pizza!” he puts both hands in the air and yells back, “Me too!”. He is tender and sensitive, wild and naughty. He’s last to bed and first to rise and though they fight over toys and space and usual sibling stuff, do not ever try to take his sister away from him. She is his lobster, his protector, his safe place, his forever best friend. He is just not the same without her.
The day of his birthday was just like him: laid-back, uncomplicated and without much fuss. Yesterday? All he wanted was us. An ice cream. A swim. A movie.
So that’s what we did.
And at the end of the day, like it always somehow happens, Van Morrison blared from our lounge room speakers, the children stripped off their clothes and a dance party erupted right in the middle of discarded wrapping paper, strewn matchbox cars, stray pillows. And since there is a Van Morrison song for every occasion, the lyrics jumped from the air, straight into my heart, and it’s what I remember most about that night – watching these babies, this family, this messy home, this life, with Van’s words echoing just how I felt in that moment:
When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well, my mama told me, “There’ll be days like this”
When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh, my mama told me, “There’ll be days like this”
When you don’t need an answer there’ll be days like this
When you don’t meet a chancer there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this
There’ll be days like this.
Happy second birthday, sweet boy. We could not love you more.
A-a-nd…Into this life we’re born
Baby sometimes, baby sometimes I don’t know why
And time seems to go by so fast
In the twinkling of an eye
Let’s enjoy it while we can – let’s enjoy it while we can
Oh help me sing my song – help me sing my song
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road.