I had grand plans to share some sewing tutorials this week to celebrate finishing my last scheduled craft fair. My one-lady factory days are over, or at least on pause, and this wide open space beckons to be filled with new creative pursuits.
While all those projects are still simmering, my early week is unfolding slowly with lots of lingering nostalgia. I think post-birthday reflection is pretty typical, but my reminiscing is heightened by the events of the weekend.
For the first time in 5 years, Eloise had a fever. We had to scoop our toothless 6 year old up from a sleepover and ferry her home in her pajamas. We stopped to get some medicine, and I awkwardly carried my barefoot baby though the store. Her feet dangled past my knees as I waddled around the aisles. Her head still fit perfectly against my shoulder. She still clutched my shirt in her fists as she did when she was small. She still felt like a part of me.
As I struggled to peer over her to pay, I realized that this might be the last time I get to carry her.
Later in the weekend, I dropped my phone and the screen slowly faded to black. I set to work uploading the last several hundred pictures to the constantly cataloging cloud, and I poked around while I waited. The thousands of pictures of my daughter’s life scrolled across the screen. All the photos I’ve shared, the many faces of burst shots, and the moments I didn’t even realize I’d collected slowly came into focus as I shuffled through the years. I could click into 2013 and see my messy toddler, or all the way back to 2011 to her original toothless grin.
Everyone tells you kids grow up too fast. I always thought it was a little creepy when people would tell me that they wished their children stayed babies forever. Who wants a 24 year old infant in a crib? A couple years of diapers was enough for me.
We only want our offspring to stay vulnerable enough to continue to want our comfort while they are off exploring their own world. I realize that we’re just looking for connection and warmth, and that we get so much of that from the simple, unfettered love of children.
I scrolled all the way back to the first picture I snapped of my little lady. Exhausted and a little loopy, I still managed to snatch one of the first heartfelt moments between the new baby and dad. His bright eyes and gentle hand holding our sleepy, smiling girl made me realize that we can grow up and still love as plainly and honestly as a child.
It’s possible to keep something childlike in our hearts forever. I know my husband does.
All we need is to reach out to others with warmth and caring. It takes a moment. We have to set aside our social anxieties. We have to step away from task lists and chores, put down our phones, and just connect.
Looking through those virtual reams of old images, I also realized I spend a lot of time trying to capture a moment at the expense of actually living it. I’m glad I’ve been phone-less for a few days. Eloise and I read stacks of books. We drew pictures and wrote plays without me feeling compelled to capture some part of it. I think I’ll remember everything better since I experienced these simple joys without the barrier of my camera.
My broken phone is the first major event of The Year of Nothing New, too. I naively assumed my old phone would be fine for the year, and I could avoid adding to the mountains of discarded devices that mark the 21st century’s landfill layer. I could have traded up, and the girl at the kiosk batted her lilac false lashes as she presented the rows of shiny new phones. I could have walked out that day and started snapping pics and texting, never missing a virtual beat. Instead, I opted to recycle my old phone and get a refurbished phone for myself. I stammered as I explained to the sales girl that I was trying to be more environmentally conscious by not buying new things.
She tilted her head and raised a perfectly penciled eyebrow before grinning widely and commending me for my choice, “Aww, girl, that’s so smart! Plus, you’ll save money on your bill so if you decide to buy new things by Christmas, you’ll have some extra cash for that!”
I don’t know why I felt uncomfortable explaining my choice to live more simply. I already shrug off the funny looks when I forget my reusable grocery bags, teetering out with all my purchases cradled awkwardly in my arms. I’m proud of my choice, but I still feel a little out of sync with the rest of the world.
My commitment to my challenge allowed me the liberating gift of a vacation from my phone. I had planned to make something and document it all to share. Instead, I just made the things I wanted to make, and I spent time connecting with my family without distraction.
When we frantically capture and catalog everything from delicious sandwiches to afternoons in the park so we can “share” it all, we miss out on the moments happening just outside the frame. I love all these old photos, but I also want to make an effort to engage the people around me in any present moment. I want to feel the perfect light, and experience the joy of running through the leaves instead of just watching it on a tiny screen.
This nostalgic reverie has been nice, but there is a hint of sadness, too. I need to remember to find the balance between living the moment and capturing it. These photos of my daughter the size of my husband’s hand, with feet barely reaching my waist, keep those first moments of parenthood so vividly alive. I still want photographic souvenirs of this brilliant adventure, but I want to make sure I experience it all fully, too.
Sometimes, I still fee like a brand new mom. I think I can still tuck my knees up around my baby and completely encircle her while we nap together. Then I remember that she doesn’t nap anymore, and her big daydream is to stay home alone someday. She can swing up into the branches of our massive tree, but she still leaps down to hug us when we come outside. I hope she can keep that balance forever…soaring into the world with an independent, curious heart while still fearlessly falling back into love at the same time.