Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The First Time I Saw Her

(by River's dad)

It had been 36 hours. A long 36 hours -- of stop-and-go labor, a belligerent nurse like a dragon guarding the gates of the maternity ward, and the three of us gathered around my wife (her mother, her priestess, and myself) all urging her to breathe, being kind with her and stern with her at intervals, crying with her, laughing with her, breathing with her.

In those 36 hours, I learned that my wife had more courage than Normandy beach. I learned that she wasn’t just a woman, a lover, or an artist. She was also a goddess. Her screams and her perseverance and the wonder of birth and the wonder of her brought me to tears.

And then – the impossible. The wondrously impossible. A little human being wrapped in fluids and an umbilical cord, a little shriek, and the most amazing hematite eyes in the universe. Eyes that for just a few minutes were looking right out of God’s house and into our world.

Gone are the days of expectant daddies pacing the waiting room. I saw her when she was born. My daughter, my little River. I saw the first moment she looked into her mother’s eyes. I will never forget, not even when my memory goes bad and I go as senile as a rickety old house, because that moment is forever written right into my body and into the way I now see the world. Everything is different now, as different as if something up and changed the color of the sky. Before that moment, I was a young man with a wife and a lot to prove and a world to change. But after I saw my little one’s eyes, I wasn’t that anymore. I was something entirely different. I don’t know what all that something different is yet, but I know that I’m a father and I have a little one to shield and feed and raise and laugh with, and share with her the unexpected joys of a thousand evenings.

She’s a toddler now. I come home from work every evening and swing her into my arms, and I know she’s bigger than she was when I left in the morning. She learns things so fast. She’s running about the house, picking up her cardboard books and reading them, and trying out sounds that are almost Grownup language. I suppose tomorrow she’ll be finding a boy and getting a house of her own. But for now I get to watch her grow and hear her laugh.

Anyway, that’s why I wrote this book with her. It’s written from her perspective, as near as I can see it, and it’s about how toddlers grow and learn as fast as God, and how they teach the Grownups everything about themselves that the Grownups ought to have known or maybe once did and then forgot. And also how everything looks new to them, and how they help us see the whole world again as if for the first time. I hope you’ll read it, and tell River and I what you think.

Toddlers don’t stay toddlers for very long, and we’d best grab the moment and laugh as hard as they do. That's what I'm learning each day, while she learns to run and eat Cheerios and grab her father's books off the shelves.

River’s Dad