Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Summers of Love

could tell you about a summer night when I was 13. A screened-in porch at somebody's parents' beach house. Slow dancing. A very cute boy asking me to dance, a high school boy. I remember the song though not his name. I never saw him again, yet that dance was the beginning.

All of a sudden, most likely during a dip turn, I got a sense of what was about to happen in my life. The delicious feeling that enveloped me was going to stick around and be part of my future. I seemed to possess a surprising new power, and it was all going to be fabulous. Interspersed, naturally, with bouts of heartbreak.

The same hormones that prompted my dance floor awakening led in a roundabout way, and after many years had passed, to a different kind of summer love. My daughter was a New Year's baby, so by June she had reached the stage of maximum adorableness. She laughed and pointed and turned pages in her baby books. When she wanted to be picked up, she lifted her arms.

During that first summer of her life, I'd stir each morning with the feeling that I'd just dreamed a wonderful but fleeting dream. Then I'd wake up some more and remember that it was true. I had won the lottery. In the next room was my baby, happily babbling away. And when I appeared at her door, she was going to smile one of her big shiny smiles at me.

I'd never been someone who melted at the sight of other people's babies, and I worried that I lacked maternal feeling. At a party once, I asked a proud new father, What's it like? He told me that he'd expected to love his baby, but he hadn't known he'd have a hopeless crush. A crush? I said. Yes, just like in high school. This was hard to believe. Could he really be doodling his baby's name on scraps of paper?

So the extremes of mother love took me by surprise. I turned into one of those boring new parents always carrying on about their uniquely marvelous babies. I remember once being furious at my daughter's pediatrician when at the end of a well-baby visit he pronounced her "fine." Fine? That's all he could say? I would have switched doctors if my husband hadn't calmed me down.

That's the other part of this love story. My husband did not share my trepidations about becoming a parent. He was thrilled right from the start. His enthusiasm soothed my insecurities and gave me confidence that I could be a good mother.

Our vacation that summer was a week by a lake in upstate New York. For both of us this time felt at least as rapturous as our honeymoon. Each day we conjured something new for our baby girl. She encountered a babbling brook one day. The next day it was grass, then sand. She liked hiking in her backpack perch, but cried during a ride on a carousel.

With parenthood, I realized, had come another surprising new power. We were introducing our daughter to the planet and we felt like gods.

No comments: