The first that comes to mind when I think of your birth is your beautiful, full-throated cry. Such a messy heap of emotions we had dragged along during the last months, days, minutes until that moment, but your cry came into the world like a foghorn, drowning out all the other noise, unmistakable, unavoidable, the most rich and humbling sound I have ever heard. I couldn’t see your birth, nor feel it, and so in my mind, your voice was born before even your body. Your cry shook the leaves from the tree.
And then, there was just you, filling my eyes, my heart, my mind. Your father, my beloved husband, brought you to me and held you up close to my face so I could touch you and smell you, know that you were absolutely the realest real. (He—your daddy—was like a mother bear that day, guarding us. He took such fierce care, was so warm and firm and protective. I fell so deeply in love with him that day, to see this side of him.) You had dark hair when you were born, and you looked so much like your papa, all I could think was I can’t believe I have the luck to have two such miracles in my life. Your daddy opened my heart when we met, and you opened it that much again when you found us. My heart could hold the sea.
We were so happy to find out we were pregnant, not long after we were married. We were in the middle of refinishing the downstairs floors of our house, and both of us kept giggling and grinning at each other like idiots, picturing little bare baby feet toddling across that shiny new honey-gold floor. You were the most wanted child in the world. We couldn’t wait to meet you. And now you are here, and you are our little joy-boy—you have brought us so much warmth, you’ve forced in us such growth in our love and trust for each other and in ourselves, and just as your voice was so startlingly full and open in that first cry, you have opened our throats in a deeper, richer laughter than we’ve known. It rumbles up from the earth, through our legs, our bellies, our throat, and spills out splashing. I have so much for which to thank you, but this laughter! This, I love.
Your first laugh came in your second month—not just a smile, or the quick inhale-gasp of delight, but your first true laugh. I was changing your clothes on the changing table, which sits right in front of a big double window in your nursery. It was April, a warm day, and I had the windows raised to let the light and air touch your skin. A breeze stirred the leaves of the catalpa outside, then breathed across your naked chest and legs, dancing in the silvery spring light. Your eyes sparkled with delight and your fingers danced in the air at its tickling; and there it came, burbling up out of you: your first laugh. Oh, I cried, I cried and laughed with you, and that made you laugh even more. I thought, this is the sound of life. Love. Creation. Brought on by a breath.
I was told this past month of a woman who had gone hiking in the mountains with her grown son. He had those big tennis-racket shaped snowshoes, and her boots were much smaller, so as they hiked up the path, he walked ahead at his own pace, and she followed in his footprints. This is what being your mother has been like for me. You are learning and growing so fast, it’s marvelous; it’s all I can do to keep up. You are my baby boy always, and you are my teacher, and you continue to be that voice that startles, insists, and cuts through every other thing, the song that makes me put all the other unreal things aside and remember to be—and laugh—with you. Where you lead, I will follow.
I love you, Oscar. Happy birthday.