It has been a few weeks since I’ve written. Many days, stories percolated, all with potential to blossom into Mommy On postings, but none did I nurture to print. Because this season, the opportunity cost is too high. You see, Autumn days are the best days, and these Autumn days in particular. The ones where my mom sits on the stairs and Autumn squishes her closely. Where Papa helps her glide all the way across the monkey bars. And especially where Michigan beats Ohio State and my dad buys Autumn a cheerleader uniform.
One afternoon, my mom said:
“You’re so good to her. You listen to what she wants.”
It was her way of tactfully questioning my decision to go rogue during naptime and instead head to the park. Because at 45, you not only understand priorities, but you act on them, and when making decisions for your daughter, you reason. She’ll always have more chances to sleep, but having Nana and Papa catch her at the bottom of the slide? The days are numbered because of the season, but also the time, sands slipping through the hourglass at ever-increasing speeds. Birthdays, once garnering excitement over friends and family, presents and cake, now conjure just one thing – the utmost gratitude for one more year of making it out alive. And I – the woman who has become accustomed to achieving whatever she sets her mind to – have never felt more helpless.
Before now, I would write when Autumn napped. But lately, I’ve been lying with her longer, listening to her soft breath, Tod curling into my legs. I ignore the inverse relationship between the time I spend with people and the orderliness of my house, blowing away dust when finally decluttering. I iron just enough to avoid shame at work, and I freely leave dishes in the sink.
It has been getting colder. The afternoons will soon change from crunching leaves to slushing snow. We’ll swap cider for cocoa, sweatshirts for parkas. And we’ve already begun welcoming new guests like Willy Wonka and the Wicked Witch. I’ve learned to transform the guilt I used to feel with screen time into thankfulness for the opportunity to teach about filmmaking and story, good vs. evil. And I know I’m doing right when on her own, she decides it’s more fun to become the characters than to watch them. She grabs her backpack, acting as Charlie walking from school, finding a coin, and purchasing chocolate. Then she melts like the witch before strapping on wings to become Glinda. She has already sharply distinguished herself from me with interests in nail polish and jewelry, make-up and clothes, but now I wonder – Will she take after me with affinities for theater and film? I am curious to see how she develops, yet patient to learn who she’ll become.
And while I am both eager and content, there are still bouts of sorrow. I miss being home with Autumn, and I’m happy-sad hearing her nanny recount moments like her wonder at the season’s first snowfall. I miss my mom before her stroke of unluck last year, when she was quicker and more confident. And I miss the little baby who napped on my chest all afternoon, and cried all night long. But also, I am grateful for my gift of awareness — that now, too, is a season. One that will soon become something passed and longed for. So I cherish all the days of Autumn.
And honestly – also dream about just one 24-hours of Jill.