Yesterday afternoon, Dora and I went to Bele Chere. For those of you not living within 100 miles or so of Asheville, Bele Chere is a three-day arts and music extravaganza in downtown Asheville, with lots of booths featuring local artisans selling their wares, free local music, and plenty of local food and brew. When I interviewed for my job in Asheville, in 2005, we unknowingly came to town the Monday following Bele Chere. We had a heck of a time finding a place to eat dinner, because everything literally shuts down after Bele Chere to recover.
Two years ago, Brian and I went to our first Bele Chere. I was very, very pregnant and it was very, very hot. I had just passed my due date, and was hoping that wandering around downtown people-watching and eating ice cream might make something happen. It was a good thing it did not, because by the time we got back to our car I was totally exhausted - hot, sweaty, dehydrated, and in no position to have a baby. In reality, it was an entire week before Dora arrived, but I will never attend another Bele Chere without thinking back on my pregnant self, round and pensive and completely unaware of what was ahead.
A year ago we went with a nearly one-year-old Dora in her red stroller, eating fries, people watching, catching some music. I don't really remember much about our Bele Chere experience last year - things were such a blur at that point. I was still coming down from high anxiety, and we were still trying to figure out what the heck had happened to our world. I'm sure Dora was mainly basking in the attention she was getting, taking in all the smells, sounds, and colors.
This year, Dora and I met up with our friends Mandy, David, and Isaac. Dora absolutely loves Isaac, so she was happy. It wasn't as hot or crowded as in prior years. We walked around, enjoyed the street food smells, ate pommes frites with remoulade from Bouchon. Dora finished off the remoulade with her fingers. I put Dora up on my shoulders to watch the dogs at the Purina dog agility pool. We got caught in a rainstorm on the way home, all of us wet but thankful that we'd only heard thunder and not seen any lightning.
In addition to some street food Dora got to have her first popsicle, a lemon one that she apparently thought was a little tart, because although she ate it she kept cringing about it.
I'm thinking a lot about my pregnancy these days, as I always do this time of year. It's hard to believe how far we have all come in just two short years. I've read that if humans grew as much throughout their lives as they do in the first year, we would be as big as whales as adults. It's true that Dora has changed SO much - but we have changed, too, evolving through highs and lows to our new normal. I certainly know much more about myself now, and I think I know more about Brian. I love being a parent, and I love having Isadora in my life more than I ever knew possible. But I admit that I do miss the way it was before we were parents. I miss the way our marriage was, the simplicity of our life, the snap decisions we could make. I think back on the woman I was two years ago, walking around the crowd with my big belly, standing on the precipice of something I knew remarkably little about. I will probably always miss that woman to some degree, and I will certainly always look back on that time, and that version of myself, with great fondness. But, even though I'm certainly not the perfect mother, and I have a huge list of things I want to improve upon, overall I'm very happy with the parent I've become. I'm certainly loving, caring, patient when I can be, creative and funny on good days, careful about what I let Dora do, see, and eat, and more relaxed now than I was a year ago, which is a good thing indeed. I'll take the lemon popsicle as proof of my more relaxed state, and my guess is that Dora does, too.