In this week’s “Love, Recorded,” baby Grace has her first kiss, and Matt misses it.
I go to New York for a reading and leave my wife and the baby at home for the third time in Grace’s 10 months of life. When I get back, my baby who is afraid of other babies touching her has kissed a boy. Her first kiss.
My wife says she will never forget the name Roy. She says our daughter leaned forward and touched Roy’s hand. Then stuck out her mouth and gave him a kiss on the nose.
I did not expect history to be made.
Roy screamed, though not without pleasure, I’d guess. Roy’s mother went out of her mind at the cuteness.
If I had been in Boston, I would have been at work. So I would still have missed it. But as it is, how can I not think of all this as too early? Something I should not have to miss yet. Something I should be happy to miss, later. Something that shouldn’t involve one’s parents. I can remember, my first kiss, thinking, This is my first kiss. I can remember thinking small, personal fireworks.
What can babies know about the momentousness of life? Everything, to them, is momentous. This is why, as I understand it, they put everything in their mouths. Because, when everything is new and wonderful, the distinguishing thing is, how does it taste?
When I got Cathreen pregnant, we knew things would change, of course. We knew we would change. We never needed to know how a pregnancy test worked before, for one. We used to worry it out.
May is a full month. Cathreen’s birthday, Mother’s Day, our anniversary. We used to punctuate these dates with drinks and delicacies. We used to work them up so much in our minds that we would fight ourselves and sometimes each other to make them great. Now they are all water under the baby’s bridge. When the baby lets us, we take her to lunch for our anniversary and eat fried seafood while she eats little rice Os. We take the bus with the baby and after we satisfy her needs, we celebrate being able to celebrate us.
What I am saying is, there is no fancy restaurant you can take a baby to if you care about preserving your memory of yourself.
What I am saying is, how do you really know a tree falls in the forest if your baby doesn’t react to it?
We let the specific days go by not because they don’t matter, but because any good day with the baby is a good day to turn another year old.
When we had our friend’s car, weeks ago, we took the baby to the play room at the mall, to tire her out, and afterwards I bought my wife a dress to cover all our bases, a tiny inside-the-park home run. Nothing flashy, just speed and luck.
I wonder what it is, then, that makes us feel nostalgia for moments that have not yet passed.
Somehow I already miss the good days we have, though they are far from over. I miss a baby a little older, just learning to talk, when she will use her words to keep us closer instead of to push us away. I miss the age when we can be together without complete exhaustion. Most of what I miss is still a ways off. The good days keep coming intermittently, surprising us, so that in the middle of them, we already feel sad they’re almost over. We want another good day even as we are having one.
For a while now, my wife has been saying that we need to appreciate baby time. That it will soon be over. I have been telling her that I can’t wait for the day the baby becomes a human.
But I will miss Baby. I will.
I will miss my daughter giving someone a kiss without backstory, without stakes. I will miss being able to think that her kissing a boy is cute.
I will miss the times my daughter crawls up into my arms and laughs when I squeeze her. I realize, now, that this is not what a human likes. Humans are more alone. Humans are more ashamed.
The story I read in New York was about self-hatred, self-hope. The characters I write could be people I’d want to save my daughter from, or from being.
Before the bus comes to take me back to Boston, a rainstorm passes over New York and soaks my sandals, my pants. I mean, you could wring me out. The bus is an hour late. I spend five hours in a cramped seat while my pants stick to my legs and my feet freeze. And yet the next day, I write on Facebook and Twitter that the trip was worth it. I feel the need to tell the world that the pros outweighed the cons.
I wish I had seen that kiss, but that appreciation of the bus for the night before it is what I want. I want us all to be always coming home from a trip. To forget the next part of the journey and remember the worth of where we’ve been.