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Julia and Charlie. I remember when we named them. Five years ago, Will and I were sitting in the grass outside a farmhouse in Tuscany, soaking up the warm afternoon sun and talking about our future family. Our backs were leaning against the solid stone of the centuries-old house as we shared some cheese and a bottle of white wine, looking out over the olive groves and the patchwork quilt landscape of green and brown farms, to the medieval village of San Gimignano rising up over the hills. Right then and there, we chose our boy name and our girl name: Julia and Charlie. Then, we finished the wine, packed up the cheese, and moved on. Never a backward glance. Hardly a second thought.
And now, they're here. Julia and Charlie. In our home. In our everyday lives. In our photographs, at our dinner table, snuggled up in our bed in the morning. Every day, miraculously, I wake up to the sound of Charlie's cries. I go into his room to find him sitting up in his crib, relieved to see me, holding his arms up in the air. When I lift him up and kiss his sweet warm cheek, he leans into me, then slings his arm around my shoulder, casually. "Should we go see Daddy and Juje?" I ask, as we walk across the hallway. Charlie squeals at the sight of Will, still sleepy-eyed in bed. Julia is hiding under the blankets and when I say: "Charlie, where's Juje?" he points and lunges at the lump writhing around in our bed. When I peel back the covers and yell "There's Juje—Peek-a-boo!", they both smile, shriek, and hug, in all their soft, sweet-smelling, saggy-diaperedness.
How is it that such a short time ago, they were a thought, an idea, a wish, a name, a positive pregnancy test, a fuzzy ultrasound photo, a flurry of kicks, and now: these very real people, without whom my life would be shattered?
Charlie, who has eight teeth. Whose hair curls up into little blond C's at the ends. Whose eyes are a mesmerizing pool of blue. Who lies in my arms and buries his face into my chest, smiling shyly. Who takes the safety latches off the cabinet doors and hands them to me. Who now cruises the furniture and climbs the entire set of stairs. Who stops and wags his index finger when I say "Charlie, no, no!" Who says "oooof oooof" when he hears a dog barking in the distance, and points to his ear when we say "Charlie, where's your nose?" Who pulls himself up against the sides of the bathtub, all naked and shiny, and then lets go. Who tries to say "baaaaaaa-nana" as he shoves a whole chunk into his mouth and signs for "more." Who wrestles me as I try to change his diaper, then lies on his back and roars with laughter if I stop struggling and kiss his belly.
Julia, who has long, spiraly curls. Who reminds me of my mother and Will. Who is sweet and smart and stubborn as an ox. Who cries if I carry Charlie down the stairs first. Who doesn't want me to comb her hair, but who runs to the mirror to look when I braid it. Who wants to dress up in glass slippers, but won't put her shoes on for school. Who sits in her Time Out chair and yells "You're a mean, mean mom!" while I stand in the kitchen, silently stewing and slicing potatoes for dinner. Who wakes up in the morning, curled against me, radiating warmth.
Five years ago, they didn't exist. Or, did they? Julia once told me: "When I was in the sky, I picked you and daddy." I'd like to believe that she did. That they did, five years ago, as we leaned our backs against a stone wall in Tuscany and dreamed of them.
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