A year I’m not ready to forget

We noticed our Christmas tree was dead, dangerously dead, on December 20. Five days to go and we were unplugging the lights. I’ll take the blame. I’m the only person that waters the tree and I’ve done it plenty this year, but I’m also the person who started the small fire in our oven we now believe might’ve sped up the dying process.

The details don’t matter much, but I’ll share a few anyway. The fire was quickly put out and Russ cleaned things up as I got Livy and Carter out of the house for a bit. The tree sits in our living room, one wall over from the kitchen. I have all ideas the smoke helped dry the tree.

It doesn’t matter.

If this were any other year, that would probably be the biggest frustration of the holiday and I’d be wondering if I should remove the ornaments and lights, buy a discount tree and start over. But it feels perfect for 2020.

There’s a branch near the top middle that’s now missing most of its needles. Those left behind are tinged brown. At the end of that branch hangs an ornament that reads Livia’s First Christmas.

It’s poetic (or maybe I’ve been reading too much poetry in quarantine).

Sweet Livy, in a year when nearly everything else sucks, you’re a light. We don’t have anything to compare this first year of parenthood to, but I can’t help thinking we’re getting to experience things in a way we wouldn’t have if you’d come into our lives without a few years of waiting.

I fully understand why so many people are ready to toss this year. It’s been challenging for the lucky among us and devastating or even soul-crushing for many others. I don’t discount anyone’s struggles in this year.

But I’m also distracted by the joy you’ve brought — not just by being here, but also with the peaceful happy personality you carry. You’re so much fun.

You wake up smiling. You giggle very easily. Your babbling is almost always at a yelling volume and it makes me laugh every time it starts. You learned to crawl the week you turned six months old and the moment it became an actual crawl was a tearful one. Your dad and I are saps.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the very specific things we’ve experienced because of this pandemic.

The day you were born, we rushed to the hospital thinking something was wrong. When we quickly found out all was well, it turned into a day of quiet calm playing cards, watching TV and talking. In a weird way, it was kind of our last real date of the year. It hit me the other day how lucky we were to have such a peaceful experience. As much as we longed for the chance for grandparents to be able to meet you at the hospital, there was a magic in the quiet calm before and after you arrived.

Your dad was supposed to go back to work in his office two weeks after you were born. I was set to return after 14 weeks. You’re 27 weeks old and we’re both still home. I left my job and will be freelancing from home, a leap I wouldn’t have taken if it weren’t for the pandemic. As of now, it looks like we may both be working from home for your entire first year of life.

Between the two of us, we haven’t missed a single moment of your first six months of life. It isn’t lost on me that the moment you started crawling could’ve easily happened at daycare. I have nothing against daycare. We had all ideas you were headed there at 14 weeks old. You had a spot reserved. Plans change.

We’ve watched as people who care about you found special ways to show it. You have way too many family members and friends you haven’t been able to meet yet, but so many of them reach out to check in on you. Your New England grandparents video chat with you at least once a week. We know how badly they want to hold you again and see how you’ve grown since they met you in July. We’re so sad they can’t, but we’re more grateful for how engaged they’ve managed to be from more than 900 miles away. Your South Carolina grandparents see you as much as we can make it happen and I promise it’s still not often enough for them. Beyond them, you have cousins and aunts and uncles and good friends who spent six months showing love in pandemic safe ways.

It’s pretty remarkable to see. I don’t know what we expected in this year. I spent a lot of late pregnancy hoping this would all go away quickly and we could celebrate you in normal ways. I still long for you to know the people we love, but you’re young and you won’t remember any of this. The more I remember that, the more I realize the unexpected gifts of meeting you in quarantine.

That’s what I’m going to take from this year — a working knowledge that things going as planned isn’t always the most beautiful option.

A recent photo of Livy looking like the newest Beastie Boy (taken by Russ)

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