New Years Day

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The original plan was to take a restorative, reflective New Year’s Day walk alone. I am almost never alone now: there’s always a kid with me.

But even though Erik had offered to make the original plan happen, by the time I was about to leave, Zora was antsy. I gave her the option, and she decided to come along.

The route meandered through an old quarry-turned golf course, with a side trip to a footbridge over railroad tracks. Before the footbridge, the path looped left or right, a full circle over a field, both ends meeting up at the base of the bridge. I suggested to Zora that she could go left and I could go right. We would see who made it to the bridge first. It was something, I thought as I said it, that would motivate her to keep walking. But as she walked away to the left, I realized that the slight slope of the field would hide her from my view. The circle looked smaller than it was, a trick caused by the bare, green, sameness of the field of short grass. And when she was too far for me to yell for her to come back, the gleam of her bright blond head slipped lower and lower. She turned and waved to me before she disappeared completely. I checked my worry. She would be fine. I would meet her on the other end. We were still headed to the same place.

Last night, someone asked what the highlight of the year was for each person. For me, no question, it was her brother’s birth. It was a magnificent birth. He is a magnificent baby.  2011 was momentous for other reasons, but almost everything that happened can be traced to the fact of Abram’s birth. Even the lack of sleep, slowly accumulated through the year until I caved in to drinking a daily dose of caffeine this fall, even that sweet exhaustion of baby-holding and feeding is his fault. He was born in 2011, and in many ways it was his year.

But while I wasn’t watching, my other child has grown inches and slipped from the round, soft shape of a preschooler into a girl with long strong limbs, finding her way across this loop of path without me.

When her path rises enough, I see her head again. She is luminous, hair blowing around her head like a halo, confident and quick in her step, expecting our reunion, and waving, happy to see me.

We cross the bridge. We put our feet in the water at the edge of the sound.

She still needs me to manage the careful balance of rinsing feet and drying them without shoes or socks slipping into the cold water. She laughs and wiggles on my lap. She is still a little child, angry to leave the shore and go back. She still needs to ride on my shoulder for part of the long walk back.

She will never be as young as she is today.

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