I walk into her house bearing food. It is, I remember, most likely the happiest time of her day. Not just that someone is bringing her a meal she didn't have to cook, but also that someone who is over 3 feet tall has entered her home. Someone who can talk about adult things and, if she is lucky, linger for a bit. She asks me if I want to see the baby who has just begun to cry over the monitor in the kitchen. Of course I say yes, even though my husband and children are waiting for me in the van and I really should be going. But I know that would be like telling Mary Cassatt I don't want to see her painting; Flannery O'Connor that I don't want to read her stories. This is, I know, her masterpiece. The finest thing she's ever done. Of course I need to see.
The baby is tiny and precious, her downy black hair so soft I want to touch it. She nestles her into the crook of her neck and I remember the delicious feeling, the way that my baby's head seemed to be created to fit perfectly for that spot, like puzzle pieces clicking into place. I do not have to lean in to sniff the smell of a newborn, my whole body remembers that intoxicating scent I never tired of inhaling.
I look around the kitchen and see the vestiges of a life I once lived-- the black board where she has chalked memory verses for her 5 and 3 year old, the sippy cups, the 2 little ones who are restless and energetic, the small red table set for 2 with tiny plastic dishes. Once these were the trappings of a life I wanted out of, a life I thought I would never escape. I couldn't see past the crying and the needing. I couldn't believe that these little people would ever grow up, that the endless days would ever speed up. I couldn't fathom that I would ever, ever want any of it back.
And yet, as I hop into the van with my husband and children, I smile wistfully as we pull away. I was just there, I think. Minutes ago. And now the days of having 3 little ones are gone forever. I can't go back and do it again. I can only look around at the scenes of my life as it is and work harder to appreciate what I have now.
I found this video that, if you have 7 minutes to spare, perfectly sums up what I felt standing in my younger friend's house.
It goes so fast, the older women always told me. It turns out, they were right.