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At a recent family event, we got the chance to introduce Charlie to some of his extended family for the first time. I was so proud and excited to show off our boy, and so happy to see him welcomed into this happy clan of academics and athletes and octogenarians and oddballs.
It was my first chance to introduce Charlie to one of my favorite people—Will's cousin Leslie. She's the kind of person I'm always happy to see at a family gathering—the one who, in fact, is usually responsible for the family gathering. She's the kind of person who brings people together. Who puts others before herself. You know that saying that there are two kinds of friends in the world: the kind who will help you move, and the kind who will help you move bodies? Well, Leslie is the kind of friend who will help you move, and after a long day of moving, when everyone is kicking back with some pizza and beer, she'll wander off and dig through a hundred boxes to locate your sheets and put them on your bed for you.
It's the kind of thing your own mother would do. Leslie's just that way.
After everyone had said their hello's at the party, Leslie came over to get a look at Charlie. She knelt down next to where I was sitting by the fire, where Charlie was sleeping peacefully at my feet in his wooly-covered car seat. After peering in at him for a bit, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes, and said: "Do you know how lucky you are?"
In that moment, a million thoughts raced through my mind. I knew that Leslie had been trying for several years to have a baby, and that it hasn't happened for her yet. And all I could think was: "Why me? Why me, who wasn't even sure that I should have kids? Why me? Who lets her daughter watch movies instead of soaking up every ounce of time that I have with her? Why me? Whose motherly moments are often the kind where I might, say, "bake cookies" with Julia by letting her break apart those pre-made squares that you just plop onto a tray. More importantly, why not Leslie? Who is warm and generous and thoughtful and giving. Who is the glue that holds people together. Who deserves this.
In that moment, I thought about what my life would be like if I didn't have Julia and Charlie.
I thought about the time at a family reunion when Julia, who was just a year old, fell off of a chair and landed on her head on a stone patio...when Will picked her up and we saw her eyes roll into the back of her head as she went completely still and lifeless. I thought about that moment of sheer bone-chilling panic, when I thought we might lose her...when I picked up my cell phone to call 911 (the same cell phone I have been using for years) but couldn't quite figure out how to first dial the numbers "1-2-3" to turn off the key guard, so I instead threw my phone to the ground and ran to the house, where I saw Leslie and almost melted, because she's exactly the person you need to see at a moment like this. I grabbed her by the shoulders and screamed "Call 911," and she calmly turned, walked over to the phone, and dialed. Only after she'd started dialing did she ask why. And, the only words I could muster up were: "Julia..."
In that moment, I thought about what a miracle Charlie is. About the first time I saw him kicking and waving at us on the ultrasound screen, when I'd been so sure that we'd already lost him.
I thought about how lucky I was to have found Will, and to have this family with him.
I thought about all of these things. But in that moment—the moment between the question and the answer—I looked away... at my sweet baby's face, all lit up in the warmth of the glowing fire, and then back into Leslie's expectant eyes, and said the only words I could muster up:
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