Over the weekend you turned twenty-two months old. If I could give you any useful advice this month it would be to choose a partner in life who isn’t afraid to say FART out loud. Life is too short to be uptight about something so small, and I doubt anyone who would overreact about such a thing would survive a single holiday in this house let alone be willing to pick up a box of tampons for you on the way home from work. Your father farted loudly during the first ten minutes of our first date, and after an awkward moment of silence between us when we were both trying to figure out whether or not the other one would run I said “Awesome!” I knew right then that your father was the man of my dreams.
The last month of your life has been a study in various metabolic processes, and in the future when I think about this time in your life I will fondly remember our home as Bodily Function Junction. When you aren’t constipated you’re suffering diarrhea, never in between, and to fill in the gaps your father and I aim toxic gas grenades at each other. Cute, huh? Your Great Aunt Lola is notorious for trying to figure out what other people have eaten by smelling their farts, and although your father and I aren’t yet that depraved — that being a term of measurement because I am depraved enough to tell the Internet about a relative of mine smelling someone else’s fart ON PURPOSE — we’re having a hard time figuring out whose fart is whose. I don’t think either your father or I can say that we have ever dropped a bomb without immediately pointing at you. “It was her,” I’ll say. “And she certainly didn’t learn that from me.”
A couple weeks ago you experienced your first bout of diarrhea. This is not an ailment that I have a lot of experience with, and after you destroyed ten diapers in less than two hours I thought I might start seeing internal organs in the next round of clean-up. We were visiting my mother’s cabin in the desert when it struck, and because we had planned on staying only one night we only packed enough diapers to make it through the first hour. Consequently I panicked and extrapolated that we were all going to die in that cabin, that your diarrhea was going to fill every room like milk in a bowl and suffocate us. This is what my reflexes tell me to do in times of danger or disaster, to assume the worst as loud as I can until someone slaps me. As you get older I will need to show a little more courage under fire if only to set a better example, but until then I’m just going to trust that your father will think clearly and resist the urge to throw large containers of water in my face.
This month you have stopped calling Elmo Melmo and have instead embraced your Southern heritage and started referring to him as Yelma. It always sounds like a question: Yelma? Thar’s a hole in mah bucket, Yelma! Yelma and Louise! Most words now start with a Y — up is yup, open is yopen, again is yageen, and nap is nyap. You’ll repeat anything we ask you to including SPERM — I know because I tested that one out specifically, thought it was important — and last week after pooping for the first time in four days you started saying, “I know, I know,” because I had been saying to you, “I know it hurts. I know.” It took me a good five minutes to figure out that you weren’t saying “Oh, no!” like, “Oh, no! Not this again! But I already went poop this year!” One morning you and I were playing with a small bouncy ball when I accidentally sent it flying underneath the piano. Before I could stop myself I muttered, “SHIT SHIT SHIT,” after which you immediately said in the same tone, “THIT THIT THIT.” Just then across the room the dog sat down as if given a military command.
About a month and a half ago you took your first steps. Since then you haven’t done much walking, if any at all. I thought that once you discovered the freedom of walking that you would take off flying. But you are instinctively tentative, and because you are old enough now to understand that you fall much farther when you walk you are far more reluctant to try it than someone much younger who doesn’t yet understand cause and effect. It’s like learning to talk after finding out that every word you say can hurt you. In the last few days, however, you’ve shown so much more interest in doing it yourself, and your father and I have screamed ourselves hoarse trying to encourage you. The other night you were walking back and forth between us when the dog came upstairs to see what all the unnecessary screaming was about, couldn’t we be quiet because he was downstairs in the dark putting on black mascara and dying his fur with Koolaid. When he saw you coming at him upright with your E.T. waddle he whipped his head around to give me a look that said, “You’re shitting me. When did this happen? And why are you letting her do that?”
Two nights ago you came down with your first fever, at least the first one that wasn’t caused by complex diseases we had shot into your legs with four inch needles. You aren’t normally a cuddly kid. In fact, trying to hug you is like trying to spoon a cactus, but the moment that fever hit you you clung to my neck with the weight of an anchor. For several hours we sat together, your body draped across my chest, the heat of your fever pasting your hair to my neck. I used to hold you that way for days at a time when you were only weeks old. It was the only way you would sleep, and you made these awful noises that kept me awake all night, grunts and snorts and coughs that sounded like you’d been smoking for 50 years. The other night, though, you were entirely silent, as still as the moment they first laid you on my chest in the delivery room. Sometimes I think that my memory is going to dull and that in ten or fifteen years I won’t remember specifically what it felt like to see you for the first time, that the perfect moment of meeting each other and not knowing each other’s weaknesses will be lost as we find out that the other one isn’t perfect.
But as you clung to my neck the other night I felt it again, an innocence laid bare in both of us, and I realized that without even knowing it we continue to pull each other back to those first few minutes together, just a mother and her child. I understand now that it’s not a matter of forgetting what it felt like, it’s a matter of being reminded of it by living it over and over again.