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Last week when Finn was over for the day, I snapped a few photos.  You know Finn: Miles’ mini soul mate and comrade-in-arms.   Every other Thursday, Alicia and I take turns taking both kids so that the other can go do all of the things it is undesirable or impossible to do with a 2-year-old hanging on. Uninterrupted vacuuming. Pleasure reading. Forming adult thoughts in complete sentences. 

This arrangement has worked well for us, although things can get a little wacky with two 2-year-olds.  Like the time Finn peed her pants and Miles, while I was cleaning her up, pooped all over himself and the head of my childhood stuffed bear, on which he was sitting.  Or the time one of them slammed a door on the other one’s body as part of a “game,” or the times when, instead of napping, they lay in adjoining rooms and sang the alphabet to one another for 40 minutes.  There’s Thursdays I spend the whole time saying, “We don’t strangle our friends,” and “Finn is playing with that.  Can you find something else to play with?”

But other times, much of the time, they are crushingly sweet and I think I just can’t stand how much they love one another.  It’s too much, the way Finn says “Miles!” incessantly in a tone of joyful astonishment, as though she had just discovered rainbows.  The way they initiate smiling contests during lunch and make a game of kicking one another’s feet under the table. 

Smiling contest.

   

"Miles!"

Looking at the photos of the kids painting last Thursday, I was struck with the stillness and beauty of the images.  It had been an especially busy morning, with play-doh, blocks, madcap chasing, cooking in the play kitchen, Miles bossing Finn relentlessly (“Finn don’t use that block!”), and then the two of them painting, crayoning, stickering. 

These photos lacked the tumult I remembered.  In each one I saw not our life but an image of life as we wish it were: gentle, lovely, orderly.  Sunlight flooded through tall windows.  The children dipped brushes into paint, perching on their grown-up chairs with no concern for the great distance to the floor.  Their beauty pained me.  In Finn’s dangling foot I saw the precariousness of our innocence, and in Miles’ kneeling form the resilience we bring into the unknown.  The moment seemed hushed, invented, idyllic; even the bowl of fruit on the table seemed as though it had auditioned for its role. 

Whoa, you’re saying, hold on! I’ve lost you, haven’t I?  You’re asking, where do I come up with this nonsense?  It’s a picture of two kids painting watercolors!  Get a grip! 

The truth is that I am sad.  The truth is I don’t want any more time to pass.  The truth is that this photo is life as I wish it were, because in this photo Miles and Finn are painting together forever.  But Finn and her moms are moving to Boston, and we will see them only one or two more times before they go.

There will be trips to Boston.  Miles and Finn will chase one another and shriek, and all the moms will drink coffee or beer and laugh and tell stories.  Friendship will change and continue, like us, finding new forms and expressions.  Siblings will be born, and we won’t believe how much love there is to go around, more and more and more. 

But just for now, let’s linger at the table.

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I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize most sincerely for my rudeness in not responding earlier; my mothers are quite adamant about restricting my use of the computer.  “Miles, don’t touch that!” they chide, thinking I simply want to press the buttons and make a disaster of their external hard drive.  How can they fail to understand that I need to keep up on my correspondence?  They ramble about “screen time” and how it is bad for my brain development, yet I think we both know that my brain is developing appropriately.  Perhaps if you, a physician, write to them and ask them to relent, they might reconsider their cruel rationing of the iPhone, the Internet, and Sesame Street. 

But on to other matters.  You asked about the new neighbor downstairs.  I have not yet had an opportunity to make her full acquaintance, but I confess to a deepening affection for her bicycle.  She parks her bicycle on the second-floor landing, and each time my mothers and I come and go I examine it with interest, naming its parts aloud. 

(I’m talking now, by the way.   Sometimes I speak in sentences, as tonight when I was holding my stuffed monkey up to see the moon outside my bedroom window.  “Monkey, see moon,” I instructed it.  But I digress.  My attention span has yet to mature.)

When I pass the pink and lavender bicycle — yes, I know my colors now too — I often say, “Handlebars!  Seat!  Pedals!”  In case my mothers should think I believe the bicycle is mine, I also clarify, “Heather’s bike.”  Sometimes, I admit, I get confused and knock on Heather’s door, asking for you and Min.

Although the bicycle is charming, I am more than ready for you to return.  Please move back in downstairs at once.  I understand that this will be detrimental to your career and that your family might object to your moving so far away from them.  Yet, as I am sure you know, 2-year-olds are famously egocentric.  Everything is about me, of course, and I prefer that you come back. 

If you must know my reasons, they are simple: you played with me so very well, you were kind to my mothers, you saved Luna’s life, and you always pretended not to be bothered by the sound of me throwing wooden toys on the floor at 6 a.m.   Additionally, any place without subways cannot be a good place.  As I have matured, my interest in transportation has grown exponentially (see above discussion of bicycle), and I shudder to think that anyone for whom I care would be deprived of decent public transit.

It sounds as though the short mother is almost done running my bath.  I must close this letter quickly before she realizes I am not in fact cooking imaginary omelets in my play kitchen.  I regret deceiving her, yet I could not allow another day to pass without my responding to your kind inquiries.  I look forward to seeing you and Min very soon as you move your things back in to the apartment.  Please hurry — my birthday is next week, and if you ask very politely my mothers will probably let you take me to the zoo.  They always liked you. 

Warmly,

Miles

P.S. If I need to communicate with you again, I will do so through the blog.  My mothers have cut off service to my cell phone.

P.S. #2 Attached, please find a recent photo of me.    I hope Min will enjoy it.

On Sept. 17, David wrote:

Dear Miles, 

Probably by now you are wondering where we have gone. Don’t worry, we are still around just a little farther away, in a place far away known as Arizona. It’s a strange place unlike the comforts of our walk-up in Brooklyn. People here have golden blonde hair and bronze colored skin. They also drive in big pick-up trucks, and can you believe that they don’t know what a subway is?! Arizona is great though. There are surprising a lot of restaurants to try here, which keeps us busy during the weekends.
 
Anyways, we very much miss New York, especially walking around Park Slope. But most of all we miss you and your family, as well as Violet and hers. We have been keeping up on your blog. Min absolutely loves it, especially the candid pictures of you. Anyways, I know you still have your cellphone, so call me anytime you like. Tell Melissa and Robin we said hello and that we miss them too. Hoping that the new tenant below is friendly.  
David
 

My, what big teeth I have.

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Peas in a pod.

On the way home from music class Friday morning, we stopped spontaneously at a large, lovely playground that we don’t get to very often.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, so we usually go somewhere closer unless we are meeting someone.  Miles, thrilled with his good luck, clambered up a metal ladder (when did he start climbing ladders?!), chattering away in multi-word sentences (when did he start chattering?!).

At the top of the slide, he shouted joyfully, “Binn!”

Playgrounding in February.

“What Miles?”

“Finn!  Finn! Is she?  Where … is she? Where?”

I realized with shock that he was remembering the last time we’d played at that playground, almost a month earlier.  We’d played with his very best friend, Finn, and he expected her to be here today.  He scanned the playground eagerly from his perch.  Big kids shouting, tots racing through a water sprinkler, everywhere the hot sun.  No Finn.

Of course he expected to see her.  We see Finn at least once a week, and it had been much more than that since our last play date.  But Finn was on vacation with her moms.  “Sorry Miles,” I said.  “No Finn today.”  After a few seconds, he gave up, skidding forlornly down the slide.

Spring.

He’s been this way about Finn for quite some time.  Like the first time I mistakenly mentioned we were going to Finn’s house an hour before we were supposed to leave.  Miles marched to the door and began banging on it, chanting her name.  In case I wasn’t getting the point, he grabbed his shoes from the bin, thrust them into my hands, and entreated, “Go!” 

For several months, I was sure he thought Finn’s name was “More.” 

“Do you want to go see Finn?” I would ask.

“More, more, more,” Miles would chant, firmly signing “friend” with his hands. 

“Are you saying more friend?”

He’d look at me.  Concentrate. “More.” (Sign “friend.”) “Please.”

Got milk?

They met at two months old in a coffee shop.  A mutual friend connected Robin and me with Finn’s moms, Alicia and Melissa, because we were lesbian families who’d had babies within two weeks of each other.  At that point, Miles and Finn were bald and squirmy grubs, rooting for the breast.  They couldn’t have cared less about socializing.  Then they moved on to parallel play, eyeing one another with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, until their first tortured attempts at sharing.  Now their friendship is a passionate and intense toddler love fest.  He mostly calls her “Binn,” and she mostly calls him “Biles.” They’re a funny pair, both blonde and blue-eyed, running around like a couple of Scandinavian elves out of a fairy tale.  They scream each other’s names. 

“Biles!  Biles!  Biles!”

“Binn! Binn!  Binn!”

“Biles!”

“Binn!”

They debate the finer points of Elmo and Ernie.  They hug, they read, they giggle, they grab, they cry, they push, they chase.  

So funny!

A few months ago, we asked Miles and Finn for the first time if they would like to kiss each other goodbye.   We were finishing up a play date, and they’d been milling about, grabbing toys off the ground, turning in circles, grabbing the dogs’ tails. 

Both stopped.  They looked at each other.  And then they bolted — not away but toward each other — collided belly to belly and nose to nose, and bounced back, stunned.  Contorting with suppressed laughter, we asked if they would like to try again.  Finn smiled.  Miles approached.  He tilted his head and teetered.  Finn grasped his arm and leaned and… contact! 

The smooch train.

With Finn and Alicia, we go to the playground, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the amazing sandbox at Pier 6, the Transit Museum, the park.  Sometimes Robin and I babysit Finn, and other times Alicia and Melissa babysit Miles.  In the Fall, Miles and Finn will be together in a cooperative preschool, which means Alicia and I will be taking turns (with other parents) teaching and providing snacks. 

Best of all for me, as the kids’ friendship has developed — in between the breastfeeding, the diapers, and the snack times — Alicia and I have become great friends too.  We sneak in actual, adult conversations sometimes, conversations that help keep me sane and balanced.  On weekends sometimes we get together all six of us: four moms talking and two toddlers climbing and babbling.  In those moments, I realize just how eloquent our son really is.  More.  Friend. Please. 

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Two little monkeys jumpin' on the bed.

Play date.

 

Push!

 

 

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Miles and Joe

One of the highlights of our trip West (yes, we are still wistful about vacation) was an evening of food and revelry with our friends Inder and Steve and their delightful, abundant-with-cheeks-and-curls son, Joe.  Steve cooked up a feast, Inder baked bread and cookies, and we gathered around the table with wine and stories.

Inder and I e-mail almost daily (along with a third friend), a tradition which began when I was miserably third-trimester pregnant and turned to her for hope.  Pregnancy was never-ending, I complained.  Would this baby ever get out of me?  Though she was toting her abundant-with-cheeks-and-curls infant around the house, swaddling and nursing and diapering, she found time to assure me that eventually, somehow, I would have the baby and move on. 

Because Inder had Joe six months before I had Miles, she is always just ahead of me on the parenting journey.  If we were in a covered-wagon caravan, she would be in the wagon in front of mine, holding up a lamp and shouting back warnings about coming dangers.  Childbirth, teething, solid foods, mastitis, temper tantrums — she hits them all before I do and tells me what to expect.  It’s amazing, really.  I couldn’t have planned it better myself.  (If you want to learn from her experiences as well, check out her crafting/cooking/parenting/gardening blog.)  She’s shockingly multi-talented.

The only drawback to this six-month age gap has been that Miles and Joe, in their infrequent get-togethers, haven’t figured out how to play together.  Joe is just bigger and stronger and more coordinated.  It’s not just the age difference though — Joe was climbing ladders well before the age of 18 months.  He’s an athletic kid!  Usually Miles stares in awe while Joe climbs things.  Instead of joining in, he placidly fiddles with blocks or opens a book.  The only activity they have truly done together is stare out the window looking for garbage trucks.

This time was different.  They ran, they climbed, they pushed cars, they tore magnets off of the refrigerator.  They even had a massive giggle-fest at the dinner table.  It warmed my heart — and not only because it seemed like a huge step in their friendship.  It also gave the adults a chance to relax, catch up, and sip some wine.  Now that’s vacation.

Truckin' along.

 

Chow fun.

 

Climbing buddies.

Toddler magnetism.

Yay! Friends!

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Three Weddings

The past six weeks have passed in a whirl of gaiety.  Now, while everyone else is booking summer travel, stockpiling beach reads and dusting off their luggage, we are jet-lagged, happy, and settling back in at home.  Here, we look back on a season of three very special weddings that took us to California, then home to Brooklyn, then back to California, then to two Hawaiian islands, and finally home again.  Why did we travel so far, one wedding after another, with a toddler in tow?  What dragged us across time zones and back again?  Put simply: love.  The whirl is over, but the glow remains. 

Jason and Cera

I have been many things in many weddings.  A flower girl, a maid of honor, a chuppah carrier.  Never before this April have I walked down the aisle in the official role of “Yoda’s mother.”  Yet that is exactly what I did in the wedding of my dear cousin, Jason, and his partner Cera.  Their memorable and lovely wedding on the beach in Monterey had, if not a theme exactly, an undercurrent of Star Wars. 

Boba Fett and Yoda before the ceremony.

“Star Wars?” people ask, wrinkling their brows in confusion.  Yes.  Star Wars.  And let me tell you, it was awesome.  As in, my cousin Jason was led down the aisle, hostage-style, by a 5-year-old dressed as Boba Fett.  Miles walked down the aisle (with my help) in costume as Yoda.  The bride processed under a banner of light sabers, and… you get the picture.  The requisite feeling of solemnity was there — the sense of the transformative moment — and the Star Wars touches lent a sweet inside-joke sort of feeling to the day.  Everything about the wedding was warm, intimate, gently humorous, and infused with love. 

Parents of the groom.

My cousin is very special to me.  He is one of only two cousins, the boy who came along and ruined my status as only child in the whole family.  In his babyhood, I held with awe his soft and wiggly mass against my 5-year-old chest — and famously dropped him, hollering in alarm, “Auntie Debbie, come quick!  I think I broke him!”   As a child, he followed me around begging me to play He-Man with him and told his class at show-and-tell about how “cousing Meyissa” was coming to visit.  As he grew, he was naturally less impressed with me, yet our lives have kept a certain synchronicity.  Like me, he became a journalist after college.  Like me, he left journalism to teach English.  And like me, he has married a funny, warm, loving, amazing woman who enriches our family.

Jason and Cera, may the Force be with you.

Yoda and his mother.

 

There is no try. Only "I do."

 

Light saber tunnel.

 

 
 

Kate and J.R.

On my first day at the daily legal newspaper where I worked right after college, I met Kate.  My quick first impression: young, brilliant, funny.  I quickly added guarded, merciful, and in possession of an awe-inspiring collection of life skills.   With cool composure, this 22-year-old shepherded me through my first business lunch and my first several months in the stifling confines of a cubicle, writing about law and business, two subjects about which I had no business opining.  This is the same newspaper where Robin and I met and worked together for five years.  As we shared beers, deadlines and the turbulent loves and sorrows that attend the 20s, our friendship with Kate morphed into something distinctly familial.  Kate was there — funny, merciful, and brilliant — as we deepened in love, as we married not once but twice, as Robin became my boss, and as one of our marriages was nullified by the courts.  We traversed various deep personal losses together.  When we moved away to New York, she saw us off.  When we finally got pregnant, she cheered.  And when she married her also quite funny, caring and brilliant partner J.R. in San Francisco, we felt joy at being able to attend.  

The wedding was stylish, intellectual and delightfully brief.  Afterward, we danced and celebrated with a collection of old friends until Miles, quite dapper in a suit and tie, conked out. 

Dressed to kill.

 

Momma, Miles and Liz.

 

The little guest.

 

Dreamy.

 

 

Kim and Mike

They married in Hawaii; any other place would be out of the question. It was not a destination wedding. No. The wedding was in Hawaii because Kim is Hawaii. She is salt water, shave ice, sand, history, plate lunch, cultural blend, hiking, camping, ocean, ocean, ocean. Or, as I put it to Robin in response to her ruminations about what Kimmy’s approaching wedding and our trip to Hawaii meant to her: a trip to the Big Island is like a visit to Kim’s heart. So it was right and fitting that we should travel to her heart to witness her marriage to Mike.

Jenna.

In college, where Kimmy and Robin met, Kim declared that she would — if she ever did marry– be wed knee deep in the ocean. If she invited anyone to attend, they could stand on the shore. Later she threatened to elope , but she relented, and the two of them planned an intimate, personal ceremony that reflected both of them.  They stood on land owned by Mike’s uncles, vowing to share their lives as the ocean heaved and crashed majestically behind them.  Their self-written vows were almost musical, each verse building on the last with repetition and variation.

Stanford crew.

After the intensity of the ceremony came the levity of food and dancing.  We schmoozed with old friends and with Kim’s extended family (well known to Robin because of a 6-month road trip she and Kim took together).  Miles danced and ate and charmed until at last he fell asleep in Robin’s arms.   

Many people are cynical about weddings or bored with attending them, but I am not.  During the ceremony, Robin had to retreat to the back to entertain Miles, so we weren’t together when the couple read their vows.  Though we weren’t side by side, I knew Robin was crying the way I was.  Here were two mere humans standing at the earth’s edge, tossing their flimsy and beautiful promises into the abyss.  To marry is brave, terrible, foolish, hopeful and sublime.  Watching, I always remember our wedding day and the moment in the middle of our ceremony when, overcome with emotion, I interrupted the proceedings because I absolutely needed to throw my arms around Robin right at that moment.  

Dancing with the bride.

 

Happy place.

 

Sleeping beauty.

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This evening Miles played in the bath, tossing toys against the wall and observing their falling patterns, avidly noting the splash each produced.  Toss, whack, plunk, splash.  I sat beside the tub, trailing my arm in the water, brimful of well-being.  Thinking, we have everything we need.What produced that magical and rare feeling?  Where does it come from?  It’s more than just the sense that bills will be paid on time, food will appear in the cupboards, and our roof will keep out the weather for another day — although those are wonderful things not to be taken for granted.  This feeling I had was more: it was utter life satiety, the sense that all is as it should be.  Of course, being fickle and human, I started thinking about how the happiness would pass and that I’d better capture it, figure it out, understand it.  I wanted to pinpoint where the feeling had come from so that I could replicate it and would NEVER EVER HAVE TO NOT FEEL THAT WAY AGAIN, for goodness sake! 

Our day had been a series of simple and mostly unplanned delights.  A risky waffle recipe that turned out beautifully.  An unexpected visit with the downstairs neighbors.  An effortless levity between Robin and me, in which each of us understood the other’s meaning without the need for explanations.  Miles taking licks of his Easter bunny’s ear and saying with great enthusiasm between bites, “Mmmm!”  The pleasant sourness of the vinegar in the Easter egg dye reminding me of childhood.  A spontaneous play date on the sidewalk with two sets of neighbors and their kids, toddlers running and jostling while the adults relaxed and bounced babies and made plans.  Let’s all get together again soon!  Let’s swap child care!  No one wearing coats, all of us thrumming with the optimism of Spring.  Miles so completely covered in sidewalk chalk he seemed to be a very short, cherubic rainbow.  After dinner, reading Miles books and burying my nose in the sweaty scent of his hair.  The three of us tickling and wrestling on the bedroom rug —  hugs, love, slobber, raspberries, laughter. 

Nothing major happened.  Yet there I was at the end of the day, sitting beside the bath, wonderstruck. 

This kind of happiness, I think, can’t be forced or summoned.  Sometimes the ingredients of ordinary life get jumbled together in just the right way, and I’m wildly grateful.

Sourdough whole grain waffles.
The sweet life.

Vinegar smell.

Eggs.

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Seriously Serious

Robin was talking — 0r g-chatting, or e-mailing, or whatever passes for communication these days — with an old friend of ours who lives in Los Angeles.  The friend was saying that the more frequent blogging makes her feel like she’s right here with us, watching Miles grow up.  I glowed a little as Robin told me this because, you know, the thought of being connected to loved ones near and far makes me a little weepy and happy at the same time.  I’m that sort.

But then Robin said, “And she said Miles looks so serious all the time, very somber.  Like, he’s never smiling for the camera.”

!!!?!?!???

Sputter, sputter, snort, guffaw.   

I don’t know what she’s talking about!   Do you?

The dreamer.

 

I mean, sure, he’s not a smile machine like his friend Diego.  I get that.  But to say that he looks serious?  I just don’t know where that’s coming from.  Is she blind?  The kid’s a laugh a minute!

Playground.

 

Truly, he practically bubbles with perpetual giggles, as the following photo should make obvious.   Ready?  Here it comes.  The hilarity and glee are going to knock you out.

Jedi nap-avoidance.

Okay, so I had to concede the point; we post a lot of somber-baby shots.   I started in, huffing and puffing and filling my worry balloon, analyzing whether there’s something wrong with Miles, if he’s too serious, if he’s happy.  Robin cut me off.

“I told her it probably has more to do with our aesthetic and with when and how you take photos.”

Oh, yeah.  Worry balloon deflated.

Miles is a happy kid, but it’s a happy quiet.  His default emotional state is a sort of muted, curious amusement.  He is quiet, but he is not shy.  He observes before plunging in, but he’s not fearful.  His touch is light; his bites of food are small.  He laughs and smiles, especially when Momma is wrestling him or if he sees a dog wagging its tail or our cat Luna playing on the bed.  He’s mild-mannered (though recently prone to tantrums).  He’s just Miles.

He laughs.  Really!  But in case you’d prefer some evidence, I come prepared.

Party all the time.

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