Summer People

The spring we were waiting for Ingrid to be born, the end of April was just the perfect time I’d been envisioning. Whenever I hauled my big pregnant self up the stairs in our house, I could see, through the sky-blue room that would belong to our baby, the whole white-framed window full of the pear tree outside and its plump blossoms against the sky.

I’d folded stacks of onesies and assembled a crib. I’d pieced hundreds of squares of calico into a baby quilt, matching up every edge and corner. Outside, the weeds hadn’t yet germinated, so the lawn looked neat-ish, and sweet little leaves were poking up out of the flower beds. Nothing was yet unwatered or weirdly blighted around the edges. I imagined the summer: how tranquil and lush it would be, and how our baby would burble peacefully in the sling while I puttered in the garden.

You know what happened: Our baby finally arrived. I loved her wrenchingly, bottomlessly. Also, the blossoms fell off the pear trees, and I cried. All summer I smelled like sour milk, and was sweaty and hungry and exhausted. I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with the baby in the sling. My back hurt from trying, and she didn’t burble, she wailed. The sight of the dandelions and the wilted zinnias filled me with panic. Where had the gentle, ready season gone? Why couldn’t I even water the flowers every three days? Why did everything feel so ruined?

It’s been a slow climb up from that time. I’ve written about some of it. I still can’t explain all of it. But these days I feel really right as a mother, and this is the first April since then whose deliciousness hasn’t also been heartbreaking. Finally, spring no longer feels like something beautiful about to break. I think it's because now I know where the good stuff is.

It's not that I love the warmth and blossoms any less. And it's not that I've gotten any better at keeping up with wildness; the summer I know will come is a mess: There will be muddy footprints in the back porch, and we’ll all be sweaty, mosquito-bitten, dirty, and a little scattered. But that’s ok. It turns out the happiness I’ve found in our family doesn’t have much to do with spring’s neatness. It isn’t a quiet baby in spotless pajamas; it’s two slap-happy kids with avocado on their faces, playing harmonicas, wearing nothing but mittens. Our family isn't a lawn; we’re a dandelion field. We aren’t neat seedlings in rows; we’re a riot of tomato vines mingled with weeds. I have a glorious sort of control in this early, slow part of the growing season. Things do look neat and ready. But my ability to keep everything clipped and weeded and right will dissolve as everything grows and twists and flowers. I’m looking forward to it.


  1. I think we had the same summer two summers ago. I too had a baby in a sling constantly, and it was not a fun time. But I remember you writing about how much fun you and the girls had last summer, so I hope this one will be just as great for you.