…and it has been a bittersweet farewell. It seems we knew this was the last baby for a long time. Each month that’s passed confirms it and each day the we spend with her reminds us of the long goodbye. It’s not that the last baby is the favourite or that the last baby is more special than all the rest or that the last baby has been more important or that the last baby is somehow more significant than all the rest… but, in truth, there is something about the last baby. Something I cannot understand and certainly cannot articulate and have not be able to do so throughout these last six years. For, many times in the last six years I have attempted to write what I think about a family’s “last baby” and yet I cannot. I suppose I cannot for my eyes fill with hot tears and waves mixed with gladness and sadness wash over me and flood my mind.
Those of you who’ve followed the “dolly stories” in the last six years have a bit of a glimpse of this last baby. She’s no more remarkable than all the rest, no more significant and certainly not more important than all the rest. But… as difficult as this is to understand, she is, in fact, a bit of all those things… for she is: the last baby. She is my last infanticipation, my last pregnancy, the last labour and delivery, the last little nursling, the last one in the rocking chair and the last one walking the floor, the last one to share our bed and the last one to carry — the last skin to skin – cheek to cheek – kissy-face baby. Simplistic and yet volumes of memories pass by in the theater of my mind.
Dolly is six today. When she came down the stairs, she was all dressed and ready to go out to “birthday-breakfast” with papa. All dressed, a slip, top and skirt, sweater and tights and shoes. Hair neatly in a band, purse in hand. I asked if Hannah had fixed her hair… no. Sort of like an assault to my senses… I see it… it’s part of the long goodbye to the last baby. When she left with papa she somehow looked older… the baby had gone and now the next chapter had begun. It was as if it had all happened while I wasn’t looking — but I was looking, I was looking every day and somehow it still had escaped my notice or somehow it didn’t seem to last long enough.
Sometimes I’ve likened this long goodbye to standing on the beach at sunset, slowly the horizon is swallowing the blazing sphere. Your day’s been spent jumping the waves that wash up on the shore… over and over you jump the waves and the water washes over you or splashes your face — the sweet coppertone breeze blows through your hair, the sand runs through your fingers — everything’s warm and bright and then you notice the sun is becoming a sliver and your day of kicking up the waves and playing at the beach is slowly coming to an end. So you stand there attempting to catch a wave and hang on to it as it comes up on to the shore… swirling and crashing around your ankles, covering feet feet and then as quickly as it came in, it goes back out again… and no matter how hard you might try, you could never catch it, never hang on to it or lengthen the time it stays. It goes out and all you can do is stand on the shore and watch it roll away, delighting in the sweetness of the day, the invigorating sea — the ever changing, ever the same — rolling sea. And just about the time you think you might stand there longer, the sun slips beneath the horizon and you stand quietly… sort of basking in the glow of the day remembering how sweet it was to frolic in the waves… how the sun was warm on your face. Your face almost hurts from smiling so much and then you realize the day is over… O, there’s another day at the beach tomorrow… but you recognize that this day at the beach was one you wished would never end.
That’s how it’s been with ‘melia.
—with love, the baby’s mama