There is a time when the seasons are changing that you can feel both of them at once. A crisp autumn breeze while the sun beats down on you, heating up the pavement. Leaves falling around you while the bees and butterflies visit the leggy Lantana plants in front of your house. The smell of fresh-cut grass mixed with the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet. Today was one of those days. This morning, my baby girl woke up in a toddler bed, jumping up and standing on the mattress yelling "mommy!" when I walked in the room. She had slept all night in the bed just like a little girl, and then when I sat down next to her on the bed - like my mom used to do with me - she crawled in my lap to nurse. She's a baby and a child all at once, and it's both magical and a little bit heartbreaking to witness.
We've been talking about switching out the crib for the toddler bed for a while. Dora has thrown herself out of the crib twice. Once she hit the chair by her bed and once I dove in to catch her, like my old softball days at second base. In both instances, her fall was broken, but she still hit the floor. I knew that the change was imminent, but yesterday when Brian and I met for lunch I was still surprised when he said he'd put up the toddler bed. When Dora and I came home from school yesterday, I took the crib apart, unable to shake the image of myself putting it together over two years ago, my big round belly between me and the red wooden posts.
I have always resisted the change of seasons when summer becomes fall. I probably picked this up from my mother, who loved summertime and also hated to see the winter coming. As we walked around the block tonight, I realized that if I would let go of my sadness about summer ending, let go of my apprehension of the cold and gray that comes with winter, I could actually enjoy the fall. I could be one of those people who say "I love fall" and actually mean it. I've probably been cheating myself out of enjoying the season because I'm so focused on what we're losing. You know that saying, about life being what happens while you're making plans. It's true that it's so hard to live in the present - especially when you're hung up on the immediate past or future.
When Dora toggles between babyhood and childhood, it's like I'm witnessing time standing still, overlapping between the past and the future. I see those glimpses of babyhood and I try to pay close attention, wondering if that's the last time she'll look at me like that. About a week ago, she started pronouncing "milk" correctly, saying the "k" at the end instead of "t". We all said "milt" because she said it, and now she says it right so we probably have to let that go now. I know she needs to learn the right pronunciation, but I hate to see her baby words go, too. One day I put her to bed in the crib, and the next, she's in a toddler bed. It's probably for the best that Brian just did it one day, because I'm not sure I ever would have.
I know that I am blessed to witness every day I have with Isadora. Some days I can't believe how lucky I am that I get to be her mother. I wonder why God chose me for her, how Brian and I could make someone who is so completely perfect in every way. I don't believe its a bad thing to think fondly of the past - in fact, I think remembering our past is an essential part of who we are. But I also think I really need to make the effort to live in the present - to relish Dora's new ability to pronounce words, to rejoice in her singing and dancing, even if she's lost that baby wobbliness that I love so much, to smile at her inquisitiveness and ability, allowing myself to wonder if she's actually a genius. It is so easy to get caught up in work and schedules and life and pets and chores, so easy to waste away every evening with Dora on those tasks when we should be sitting down together working on her bear puzzle. She plays wonderfully by herself, and sometimes I have to take advantage of that, but I also have to take advantage of the fact that she and I have every night to ourselves, to focus on each other and play with reckless abandon. So maybe it is fall - summer is over, winter is on the way. But the air is crisp, the leaves beautiful, the sun still warm. Enjoy it! Hold hands with that baby girl and check out the fall leaves - live in the now and keep an eye out for those glimpses of babyhood and childhood overlapping. To borrow some words from my friend David Dhoop - I don't want to miss a thing.