In the quiet of Dylan’s room, my mind has plenty of space to roam. I don’t have my phone with me, or a TV remote in hand; my laptop is downstairs and we usually leave the iPod in the car. It’s usually quiet in there, aside from the sound of Dylan sucking (if nursing) or crying (if wet), or breathing (if sound asleep). This morning, as I sat and rocked Dylan, my eyes fell upon a gift from a dear friend: a wooden block, upon which the words “You Make Me Happy When Skies Are Grey” are written. It’s tucked on the shelf between one of the ten copies we received of Guess How Much I Love You and a handful of designer shoes Dylan will wear when he’s four years old. The wooden block is darling and, of course, encourages me to start singing “You Are My Sunshine” to him. But you know what? That song is really depressing. Especially the verse that goes like this: “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping / I dreamt I held you in my arms / When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken / So I hung my head, and I cried.” Yeah. It’s all about losing the one you love. And when you’re singing it to your tired baby, and you start imagining not having them in your arms…well, let’s just say it’s not really the type of thing a new mama needs to start worrying about.
After wiping away a tear or two, I suddenly saw my reflection in the mirror as a snapshot in time: tired new mama swaying with sleeping baby in my arms. Perhaps the sister emotion to grief is nostalgia, because I felt a flood of it wash over me in that moment. Nostalgia for how much Dylan has grown and changed in just a few short months, already growing out of the 0-3 month onesies and socks, and nostalgia for the way my life is unfolding at a beautiful, but breakneck pace. Immediately, my mind blurred through all the permutations Dylan’s nursery has taken since we bought this house. When we first moved into our home, I wanted it to be a study, so we put my writing desk under the window and a bookshelf along the wall, but, over time, it served as a dumping ground for bills and important papers. A while later we decided to make it my yoga room; I vowed to meditate every morning and move through at least a few sun salutations to greet each day. I think I lasted a week before the yoga mats became nap space for the dogs. At one point, the entire room was Josh’s closet: clothes and shoes strewn about haphazardly.
But then we found out we were pregnant, and we started calling it the baby’s room. In the middle of a January snowstorm, we decided to buy and assemble the crib (and when I say we, I mean Josh). I sat on the floor, snuggling our dogs, and watched Josh fight with the instruction manual. I rubbed my belly and made a silent wish that the baby would be happy here. As the months ticked by and we accumulated more baby things –clothes, stuffed animals, books, etc. – they began to fill the shelves and cupboards in random fashion. I never really had a vision for what I wanted the room to look like, and we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so I never leaned toward making it gender-specific. In March, we bought a rug and a rocking chair. In April, we filled baskets with baby bath products, sleepers, and socks. In May, a friend painted a beautiful picture of my pregnant profile to hang on the wall. And in June, Dylan arrived four weeks early, while the floor was still covered in giftwrap from my baby showers. It remained kind of a disaster for weeks, before my mom came in July and helped make sense of drawers and shelves and little toy trucks. And now, it’s earned a familiarity that comes with frequent use; it’s comfortable, warm, and personal. It’s Dylan’s room. It’s the room I mother in: rocking, consoling, changing diapers, nursing, etc. It’s the room I lie on the floor in, next to Dylan, while he’s falling in love with the shadows on the ceiling, and I read to him from children’s books that I remember loving as a child. I wonder which ones will be his favorites. And it’s the room in which I sing to him: “You Are My Sunshine,” even though it makes me tear up a little and marvel at the nature of time and the precious moments in life that cannot be contained, no matter how many pictures I try to take.
Painting by artist, Leah Klister, based on a photograph by my mom, Elizabeth Houlihan.