Jacob has always wanted to hike the Appalacian Trail, and so we decided that when each kid turns 13 he will take them on a hiking trip– “It’ll be their bar mitzvah” he said. (He’s always wanted to be Jewish.). He told the kids this after we finished watching an episode of The Middle tonight, the crusts of our Lou Malnati’s pizza still on our laps, and an over-tired Ellie already nestled into my chest and fast asleep. Sophie was immediately excited at the prospect, and Cohen was convinced of its appeal after he was told they could perhaps “catch a Phillies game” after the hike. Jacob concluded the conversation: “Let’s not just wait for when you turn 13 though,” he said, “let’s enjoy all the Now until then.” He looked straight at me from across the room, “For Cohen, that’s only 6 years.” And we shook our heads like we do so often, in disbelief, but believing.
Sophie sensed this nostalgia. “Wanna look through our photo albums?” she asked. So we did. We recalled vacations– trips to the beach with sand-filled diapers, unsuccessful “family” bike rides, messy summer-night ice cream cones that covered our car seats with slime. We noted the milestones– first days of school in polo shirts and dresses, numerous shots balancing kids on pumpkins at Goebberts, the multiple fireworks shows we’ve had to leave early with our hands pressed over frightened toddler-ears. We tracked birthdays with Aunt Katie– butterfly cupcakes on Sophie’s first, a train cake on Cohen’s 3rd, blue-berry lemon poundcake on Sophie’s 5th. “You know, Katie’s favorite thing to do was be with you,” Jacob paused to tell the kids. “That’s a pretty cool thing, to have your life mean something so special to someone else.” They nodded their heads solemnly. We found a picture of Pa Pa Pa Norb and Sophie asked, “Wait, did he die?” And Jacob said yes. The little adult that’s growing in Cohen’s boy body struggled to find the words to ask, “And so- he died– just of old age?” And we said yes. “How old was he?” Sophie asked, and we told her “91.” We turned page after page and noted how the chubby cheeks of toddlers became the stretched, flushed, narrow cheeks of “big kids.” In short, we saw time pass.
Last night I awoke around 3:30, heaved my giant belly to the side and stared up at a ridiculously brilliant moon. It was like a spotlight had been flipped on in the sky, larger than any time I could recall before, like some fantastic creation from another world. It hung up there, perfectly still, framed by the diagonal, barren branches of the birch tree outside of our window, casting a long rectangle of light across our bed. I stared at it and couldn’t fall back asleep. I didn’t really think of anything as I sat there wide awake– which is unusual for me in general, but especially unusual as I worry in expectation of the thousand unknowns yet to be revealed in the upcoming weeks with the birth of the twins. But for some reason the light from the moon made it hard to think, and all I could do was stare.
Which is an adequate posture for life I guess– to be stunned by the light unfolding before your eyes. Tonight we will go to sleep and maybe the moon will tell us to stop thinking and just See. I will see Life’s mess and Life’s brilliance– and not worry and not plan– but instead simply observe– my life becoming a series of photographs, of things that may not have been, but by some trick of Light, somehow Are.
In a few years (6 to be precise) Jacob might even stare at the moon with Cohen during a campout on the Appalacian Trail. They will See and not think– of their yesterdays and unknown tomorrows, and they will yet again be reminded of the unceasing movement of time. But this will not worry them, because the light that captures their gaze will be too brilliant.