Monday, November 25, 2013

Twelve Years Ago

Twelve years ago today, Stephanie was trying to push Julia out. Julia wouldn't budge. There wasn't the right kind of room for her to get through. A few hours from now, twelve years ago, a doctor cut Stephanie open and pulled Julia out into this world.

The old cliche is that her birth changed everything. It's cliche because it's true and because it doesn't say much about what really happened. My life changed that day and there was no going back. Twelve years later, I would like to think that I'm doing well by her. I'd like to think so and maybe I am.

Last night, wrapping the last few presents with Stephanie, I got upset that we didn't have enough to give. Stephanie, a much more reasonable and secure person, said we were fine and Julia would have an excellent birthday. I protested that it didn't feel like enough and that I should go out get her something. Stephanie assured me, but I felt like crying.

It didn't feel like enough love to give. I need to assure her that my love is complete. Julia is withdrawn in many ways, her emotions under a lid and her words about herself minimal. I tell her often that I love her. She replies, "uh-huh." On the occasions when, after tucking her in, I say, "I love you," and hear her say, "love you too," my world melts. I closed the door behind me, hold my chest, and stop to catch my breath.

Twelve years ago, no one prepared me to spend so much of myself on proving my love. I didn't know that my love for her would come so easily and so strong. I didn't realize my one dream would be to make her smile. No one could have prepared me. I wouldn't have been able to imagine loving Julia, Evelyn, and Stephanie so fiercely. It is beyond words. I still don't understand how it works.

There's a children's book called You Are All My Favorites about parents telling their kids the paradox of loving each of them so much. Like a cliche, it captures everything about loving a child without really capturing any of it. Julia is my favorite. Evelyn is my favorite. Stephanie is my favorite. All of these things are true even though that's impossible.

Twelve years ago I met the impossible. A swaddled baby Julia. I remember. She was placed in my arms and the world changed. My assumptions imploded. The world, a sphere spinning in space, became a cube and stopped still in the field of stars. There was nothing to think, just everything to feel.

And despite my history of missing such things, I felt everything in that moment twelve years ago, the gravitational pull we exerted as the entire universe canted about us. I didn't think, I didn't process. I held her, bounced slightly, moved back and forth, and felt washed clean with love.

There was just Julia. There was just Julia. There was just Julia.

Her eyes looked about then closed in sleep. She already knew me and decided that I was good, I would be there when she awoke, and my love was enough. She knew the feel of my arms and the slow beat of my heart. She listened to my whispering, trying to convey in my crude language a love absolute. For Julia, it was enough. I see it in the memory of her tiny face twelve years ago. Stephanie assures me that I'll see it in Julia's face today as she blows out candles and goes on being the dream of love I never knew could come true. I'll trust her and I'll look closely into Julia's face just to feel the world change again in ways no one can really explain or begin to imagine.

Write on, Julia. Happy Birthday.