We had been viewing videos from Levi’s earlier days on the planet. We had a good selection of clips. Levi singing Twinkle Twinkle. Levi dancing to music. Levi hiding in a tent. Levi using an abacus to determine the cube root of 216. You know, the usual.
Though we did own a video camera in 2003 when Asher was born, we didn’t whip it out all that often, and the videos we have remain on the mini cassettes that we can view either on the camera itself or by connecting it to the television. Hooking it up to the television requires the skills and patience of a military bomb disposal expert with an advanced knowledge of wiring and explosives and what make televisions work. Needless to say, we don’t watch those videos much.
“Are there any pictures of Asher when he was a baby?” asked Levi who seemed more concerned about the disproportionate number of Levi videos we were watching than Asher was.
“Well, we do have some videos that I’ll have to find somewhere, but I can show you some baby pictures.” We may have more videos of Levi at the ready, but we’ve got an almost-complete baby journal of Asher. Levi’s is the almost-blank baby journal. I ran to get the journal to prove to both children that Asher’s life has been well documented. It had been ages since I’d cracked it open. Somehow, it seemed unnecessarily mawkish to reminisce about a child’s early childhood when he’s still in the early intermediate stages of childhood.
Of course, one forgets how brief and contained infancy is in its special block of experience and time that I personally could have only described as miserable. But looking at the photos of baby Asher literally just out of the womb and still plugged into his prenatal growth tank looking all goopy and red, one can not help but appreciate the miracle of life and the overwhelming sense of possibilities one feels at that moment. We were in awe of his existence.
I stared at the photos of newly born Asher and couldn’t snuff out the question that bubbles up occasionally ruining a perfectly good, happy moment. “Could I ever stop loving them?”
Sure there are highs and lows to this parenthood gig. Sometimes, in a Wayne's World moment of visualization, I wiggle my fingers from up high to down low repetitively making the required doodle doodle doodle doodle doo (or something) sound effects, and I envision what could be – toys replaced with art, the playroom converted to my lady cave (not be confused with my lady bits which are far too dainty to be compared to something so gaping and, well, cavernous) and the occasional visit from grown children living independently at least 15 miles away from their childhood home whose locks have been changed to avoid spontaneous laundry stops. But no matter how they infuriate, aggravate or exacerbate, I always love them. I will always love them, right?
You’ll forgive me my question. It’s to be expected from the daughter of parents who seemingly stopped loving their own children. My father died a year ago yesterday. I hadn’t seen or spoken with him in 13 years. His death was traumatic only in that I had to spend time with my mother who insisted it was Dad’s doing that kept us all apart, the distortion of truth that comes from desperation and fear. Way to throw Dad under the bus, Mom.
Is there anything my boys could do or say that would stop me from loving them? From speaking to them? Is there anything they could do or say that would prevent me from ever meeting their children? I play the game to spot check myself and to convince myself that I am not my parents.
I know it sounds like a despairing exercise, but it’s actually quite reaffirming. I run through the list of transgressions such as finding selfish and/or stupid partners, committing a heinous crime or joining the Tea Party and/or becoming a correspondent for FoxNews. I count to 10 and imagine myself hugging either of my politically misguided, blow-hard sons after he is released from prison and sharing him with the shrew he loves even though that partner is an idiot and even though he contracted genital warts shortly after they met, and I know that I will still love him. I will forever love them both.
I am not my parents, and I will come to the same affirming conclusion every year at this time, a year after my father officially left me for good.