Our baby is starting to walk.
Not unassisted—yet—but yesterday, E. held hands with our dear friend Marc and trudged ahead towards the playground swings on her own two feet.
We’ve been watching the video on repeat, cheering like it was a last minute touchdown in the Super Bowl. Meanwhile A.’s been tackling his sister with kisses. Yes, she’s well past two years old. But we don’t care much about timelines. We just want to see our daughter run around in the woods someday.
And, with Cedar finally back from touring and home on summer break, I think I found a way back to myself. Thank you, old school agrarian schedule, sunshine, and the month of August (how I love you), for bringing us to this moment.
I haven’t made any apple cobbler or olive bread lately, even with my aspirations to bake more often. But I have been on two lovely trips without my children and that’s more than enough for me.
First I went solo to Santa Cruz, California, for a weekend-long clinical training with Dr. Julie and Dr. John Gottman. Because I work a lot with couples and the Gottmans are living legends, it was on my bucket list to train with them. And the good part about being so intensely aware of mortality— little E.’s and therefore also my own—is that I’m now quite motivated to experience whatever is on that list.
It felt strange to be back in Northern California again, alone. Years ago, I went to college at UC Santa Cruz. Back then, I didn’t have a car or a television or even a cell phone. I was single (sometimes, or at least, legally) and rode my bike everywhere. All of the things I owned fit into two large duffel bags, on principle. I organized my schedule so that I could go to the farmer’s market each Wednesday afternoon, and watch the sunset most evenings from the path near West Cliff Drive. I’d sit near the edge, kick my sandals off, and feel the sun-warmed ice grass in between my toes.
All alone, returning to that place, I thought I might feel peaceful and free. I didn’t. Even though my room smelled like redwoods and I ate fresh, well prepared food at a retreat center, I worried. I worried about what to do first with my hyper-precious 22 hours of no plans (I stayed an extra night as a present to myself), and then I started to worry about the things at home that I definitely have no control over. I’m not going to list the things I worried about, although I’m sure you can guess the general themes.
And then what struck me next, is possibly the best thing in the world: gratitude. I like our unexpected life, mostly because of the people in it.
Then I went up to a cabin in the Northwoods with two newish friends, bold-hearted women I met only a few years ago. We went up there to dive into various creative/work projects and stare, fireside, at Lake Superior together. We shared the same vision of how to spend a stormy day, plus similar ideas about when and where to a have a nice glass of white wine (in the afternoon, sitting in a circle of adirondack chairs in the pouring rain).
The reason I can do any of this is that E. is doing well. She hasn’t been admitted overnight to the hospital all summer long.
These days, E. is taking in more formula, gaining weight and expanding her dance repertoire into unseen territory. She’s showcasing some fearless, 80’s inspired moves. All I can say is that I think my mother must have taught her, because I mean it when I tell you that Nana is a wild dancer.
You can probably imagine it best if you stop what you’re doing and put on Sylvan Esso’s newest album, What Now. It’s become my favorite album of the summer, and it has saved our family on more than one occasion. We put it on before dinner when one or both of the kids are on the edge of a melt-down. All of the sudden their heads are bobbing back and forth like little teenagers, and E. is singing “Oh, ohhh”. Not a tear in sight.
We get lost in a beautiful record when daily life isn’t what we thought it would be. If things feel difficult, that’s when we make the kitchen a dance floor.
And then we have to get outside of our kitchens, too, because there’s a whole lot of heaviness happening right now in our world.
With this recent spike in overt white supremacy and hate-related violence, we need each other. That’s when we work together to show that no we will not stand for racism or antisemitism or any other thing that we know in our hearts is motivated by fear.
Yes we stand, and we also dance, for hope. With my tiny brave Jewish daughter, we believe in respect, justice and ever-increasing steps forward—even when the steps do not fit the timeline we would most like to see. Even when it is easy, so easy, to get discouraged.
Let’s do this. Steps forward for all.
Photo by Julie Kozberg