This Christmas, Will gave me the most incredible gift. (Not quite on the level of last year's gift, but a close second.) He converted about a dozen reels of our ancient, dust-collecting 8-millimeter home movies to DVD. And now, anytime I want to, I can sit down and pop one into the DVD player to watch a few minutes of our wedding, or Julia's and Charlie's first days on earth, Will and I stumbling through their first baths, or their first meals, first steps, first holidays...Julia playing inside a cardboard box, or Charlie banging on the piano...Julia hitting herself in the head with spaghetti tongs, or the time we found a frog inside the house...
I just sat down to watch one for the first time. And now, I kind of wish I hadn't. I kind of wish I couldn't. Because it's kind of like sitting down and watching our lives flash before my eyes.
There's me—stupidly—waking a first baby to feed her. There are babies with approximately 12 ripples in their thighs. There's the "Julia has the hiccups" episode and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers impersonations as we dance around the house with newborns in our arms.
Even just a year ago, Julia was such a baby. I was shocked—shocked!—to realize this when I watched the first DVD. A year ago, when Julia seemed approximately 36 years old next to her new baby brother, she was actually just a baby. Imagine. With little wisps of baby hair. Baby curls. Baby talk.
And as I'm sitting here, watching these movies, all I can think is: where was I for this baby time? I know I was there. I'm sure of it. In fact, I can hear myself giggling (embarrassingly) from behind the camera, offering my 2 cents here and there. And yet...I don't remember it—at least not quite the same way. When I close my eyes and try to conjure up those same images...I just can't do it. They're gone. It's like watching somebody else's life.
I remember Julia's babyhood, of course. And yet I can't hear her voice, or see that baby face in all its pudgy detail. Until now.
And Charlie, just a year ago, who was still not quite even human, was screaming through his first bath, struggling to push himself up during tummy time, rocking in the swing and sucking on his pacifier (which, at the time I was filming, seemed like edge-of-your-seat entertainment, and now—even I must admit—may have some people reaching for the remote after the first twenty minutes or so of swinging.) I'm pretty sure I don't actually want to relive those first few newborn months with Charlie—especially when now is so much fun—but still, watching it is kind of like a punch to the gut. Because it's gone.
Even now, as I sit down to write this blog entry, it's with the knowledge that these Charlie Chronicles are going to come to an end as we make room to hear the voices of new mothers with new babies. And it makes me sad. Sad that I won't be recording every waking minute of these two lives—because I know myself, and I know I won't, without the impetus of a weekly deadline. And at the same time, I'm realizing that no matter how much I document, write, photograph, videotape, or just stand in awe and memorize these two—just as they are today—no matter how hard I try to save it, it still slips away. The moment is gone. And there really is no going back.
The words of my friend and colleague Jeanne Faulkner, mother of five, are sinking in:
All we really have is now. But now is pretty darned sweet.
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Read the next entry: 1.21.08: Hoofin' It