Look, I know that it’s a cliche that new mothers get weepy on the occasion of the first birthday of their child. And I’m pretty brave when it comes to the passing of time, and things changing as they do. But on the eve of my baby’s birthday, as I finish washing the dishes, pick up the toys and laundry, and start to hang the decorations for tomorrow’s party, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to an almost crippling degree. Decorating is stretching into the night, because I keep having to pause to cry tears of joy.
In December 2013, I had fallen into such a fathomless depression that I was pretty sure I would not recover. I had my goodbye note written and displayed on the kitchen table, and I was careful to make sure not to ever clutter the table, so that it could be easily found. In the note I tried to tell everyone it wasn’t their fault and not to be sad, but that I could not bear the hurting anymore. The holiday season is tough on a lot of people, and I had been raised to make a really big deal about Christmas. That December, I was already drowning so deeply in pain that the empty chair of my husband at Christmas was bound to set me reeling. I could already feel myself letting go.
I was living in New York, which is incredibly beautiful during the holidays. From the Rockefeller tree to the streets and storefronts, to the people bustling to and fro – everything is festive and lovely, and bursting with a kind of warm cheer which is often lacking in the city during other times of the year. The festive air is so pervasive that there is not only no escaping it, but it’s so in your face as to be shoved down the gullet. It hounded and goaded, and bullied me that year. I sat on the kitchen floor with a noose around my neck at night after work, with the other end of the rope in my hand, sobbing myself eventually to sleep.
Two months later, as I struggled on, the phone rang and I was invited to sing in an opera. Since graduating college, I had only sung leading roles, but after my husband died, I had stopped singing completely. The offer now was to sing in the chorus. I scoffed at first, and then told them I would get back to them, determined not to actually ever call back as payment for their insult. But as time passed, and my misery would not lift, I decided to try to participate in something that I had at least enjoyed at one time in my life, and so I sang in that opera after all.
It was there that I met a man who I fell in love with, who is now my partner and the father of my child. My life changed so fast and I can trace the beginning of it, like a snowball effect, back to the moment that I called the director back and agreed to participate in (life) again. After that I also had a much better job opportunity dropped in my lap from out of nowhere, and got a call from an agent who heard me sing and believed in me, and is to this day working with me regularly to continue singing with increasingly lucrative opportunities. And now there’s all this flurry of unexpected attention with the memoire.
… Do you ever imagine that you get a time machine and go back to tell yourself something really important? I feel somehow that I was able to keep going, those three years ago, because echos of a future already written were reaching my spirit somehow, telling me to hold on just a little more, whispering to have hope. A superstitious part of me is pretty sure that my husband had a hand in all of it, somehow, as well. Perhaps the whisper was his voice rather than mine.
And now, as I cradle this amazing tiny baby in my arms while he sleeps, I gaze at every feature of his face. I delight in thinking of the things we’re discovering together that he likes; his favorite foods and games and songs, for example. I think how I won’t ever let anything hurt him, as long as I can stop it. Just imagining his pain hurts me deeply already. I can’t wait to show him all the nice things that exist in this world in spite of the horrors, the heartbreaks and dark stretches of earth that we walk in a lifetime. I think of the children in Aleppo, and I wonder why we have so much here on this fraction of the planet for this moment, while they are growing up in a living hell. I wonder why we can seemingly do so little to help our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race. My heart aches for humanity, and I want to gather all the children together, hold them, help them and make the world beautiful for them. After all, they will grow up to continue whatever legacy they learn. And that shapes the world through the generations.
Tonight, as I cradle you, my little love, I’m dreaming with you about how we can remember together to have hope in the dark times, just as the lights of all the winter solstice holidays suggest. For hope and love are the partners which lift us from our sorrows and inspire us to lift others. Tonight I’m dreaming with you how we can, in this lifetime, save the world.
Happy first birthday.