There are certain things I know to be true. Among them are standard measurements of time. There are 24 hours in a day. There are 365 days in a year. And we are only given so many days on Earth.
But babies, they bend the rules of time.
Perhaps it’s because they are so close to where we come from, that great, unknowable place beyond time.
Perhaps it’s the way all babies crackle and hum with vitality. We’re drawn to them, feel blessed with their smiles, because it feels like life itself is grinning at us.
Perhaps it’s the way they remind us that this life, all life, is fragile, a gift.
Whatever the reason, babies do not follow the rules of time. And you, my sweet Bean, are no different.
You have blossomed from a tiny, helpless lump of clay, to a bright spark of energy that walks, nearly runs, and delights in the world. This happened, I swear, in an instant. Yet I feel each of the days that led up to this one. Those endless minutes when I could not calm your screaming, those breathtaking moments when you put your head on my shoulder and I knew you loved me and it seemed like time stopped.
I look at you and already feel an almost unbearable nostalgia for the past, for the tiny baby I could cradle so easily in the crook of my arm. And I feel a surge of hope and joy for the future, for all those big days to come and the small, but important, days in between.
You make me feel my mortality. You are a new generation and you will live long after I am gone. But in you will live a part of me, little spirals of DNA that make us smile the same smile, little spirals that will live on. And in this way I feel eternal.
You do not follow time’s rules, yet still it marches on, oblivious to your magic. And in that steady forward march you will grow up. As you grow up you will inevitably grow away, away from me to walk your own path. One day you will go down that path and not return, at least you will not return as a child, but as a woman with her own life to lead. That day is far in the future and yet so close it will be here in the blink of an eye.
When that moment comes I will have already picked you up and set you down for the last time, and you will stand on your own two feet. You will have already felt the way the world is sometimes cruel, and sometimes wonderful, and very often some mixture of the two. I will have done my best to protect you, to show you what I know. And you will be ready. And you will fly away.
But still the rules of time will not hold us. You will know that I have loved you since the minute I heard your heart beating, and I will love you until the day mine stops. Even then, if I’ve done my job right, you will still know my love for you, you will carry it with you, and you will pass it on.
For now, on this first of many birthdays to come, I will hold you close, kiss your soft hair, and time will give us a gift, the gift of the moment, a moment that will last forever, if only in our hearts.