On Christmas Day of 2010, my new little family was cleared to leave the hospital. A day early after going through an "easy" c-section that resulted in the most precious, gorgeous, adorable, ten-pound baby boy you ever did see.
Because that beautiful baby boy wasn't born to the smartest parents on the block, we drove, without any pain medication (it's hard to find an open pharmacy on Christmas Day) more than two hours straight from the hospital to The Hubs' family Christmas. And then from there, we drove another two hours in the opposite direction to my family's Christmas.
We wanted everyone to meet this amazing little creature that we had somehow miraculously created. Joy practically bubbled from my skin because of that little boy, who was somehow able to overshadow Christmas - the highest of holidays - so much that pain barely registered from eight inches of stitches placed not 48 hours previously.
After what turned out to be one of the most happy, yet exhausting days of my life, we finally headed to our apartment. I made sure to have our camera at the ready as my husband unlocked the door and carried our newborn son into his new home. We walked in to the glow of twinkle lights on our Christmas tree, as it's our tradition to keep the tree lit all night on Christmas Eve so Santa can see where to put all the presents. As we settled in for the first time as a family, my Christmas present slept peacefully on my chest. Santa had outdone himself that year.
Eventually we all tucked in for the night, our entire world wrapped up in blankets in a pack and play near our bed. Sometime around four a.m., he awoke with a cry. As my brain shifted instantly from sweet dreams to "red alert!", I shot up in bed. That was the beginning of my life as a person who can't sleep through the night. Who wakes at the slightest breeze. But if that's what it means to be somebody's Mama, then I don't need to ever sleep again.
I assumed that he was hungry, since so much of being a parent is just guessing and hoping you're right. So I prepared a bottle and brought his ten-pound tininess into the living room, where the twinkle lights still cast a soft glow on our Christmas night. I sat down on the couch and rocked him - my whole heart had taken the shape of a person. Ten fingers, ten toes, blue eyes and a head full of dark hair. A version much improved from that weird red thing thumping in my chest.
As we rocked, I couldn't take my eyes off him. The world could have been crumbling down around us and I never would have known, since he was my world, and he was right there, perfect.
We rocked and he ate, and I told him all about Christmas Day, and that he was the most special gift I could have ever received and I was so thankful. I told him about Santa and elves, and reindeer and presents for good little boys. I sang Silent Night on repeat. Eventually, he fell asleep, and I did too.
Time has passed. We've had two more Christmases full of twinkle lights and presents for good little boys. We've had birthdays with balloons and Halloweens with pumpkins. We've had trips to the playground and pulled the bark off of countless trees. (Sorry, trees!) And we have lived. As imperfect as this too-small, crappy-neighbors, bad-parking, inept-management apartment is, it has been home. Steadfast shelter from storms, a place of our own to lay our heads down at night, a place perfectly suited to nourish and grow those sweet memories that make up a life.
Last night was the last night for that beautiful little boy to sleep in his crib in the place he has known as home for the entirety of his existence. While I know that he cares much less about this than I do, and that he'll transition smoothly into sleeping in his room at the new place, I can't help but shed a few tears that those "firsts" are over and it's time to say goodbye.
A very smart and talented writer/editor friend of mine is also moving from her house of "firsts". She wrote this beautiful poem, which sums up perfectly how, somehow, a building made of bricks and mortar can become a part of the family, too.
To the New Owners of Our House
By Heather Martin
The ghost in the big closet
flickers the light in the back
once in awhile.
Just to keep you looking up.
Afternoon sun spreads
wide onto the family room floor.
Nap there some saturdays.
Front deadbolt won’t budge?
Put your hip into it and push harder.
Also—don’t WD40 the squeak
out of the kid’s room door.
It’s an excellent alarm.
Backing out of the driveway
won’t always feel like threading a needle.
And there are 16 steps
from the living room
to the second floor.
You don’t need the light.
Oh, and the office floor slope
drags the chair away
when you stand up.
So look before you sit.
Please: Finish the basement
we almost started.
(The paneling is as awful as it looks.)
But fix the avocado green rotary phone
hanging off the hook
under the laundry chute.
It’s closer than dashing up
two short flights to the kitchen,
and it puts a little mystery back in the ring.
Speaking of the chute: It’ll choke
on two pairs of jeans at once.
Take your time.
It’s only wash.
in the pauses between
the groans and creaks
of your new old house,
you might hear the burp of the box
closing on a Trivial Pursuit night
that outlasted a fifth of Maker’s
and more than one bottle of Merlot.
A mouthy black cat
complaining down the stairs.
Or the lingering exhale of parents
bringing their only
through the door for the first time.
Soon, though, these spirits
will move down the road,
Clearing space for your story.
Tell a good one.