Princess: Not wishing the time away
“Oh, what a beautiful baby. How old is he?” a woman asked outside the Hotel Jerome.
You know it’s offseason when someone notices your baby and doesn’t just go ballistic over your pug.
“He’s 8 months,” I said, still not entirely sure we were talking about the same thing.
She seemed like a nice woman, probably in her mid-50s, nothing like the typical Aspen summer “guest.” (Let’s face it, when you fly in on a private jet and drop five figures shopping for clothes, you’re too fancy to be called a “tourist.”) She wasn’t overly coiffed, just dressed in a sweater and jeans. Her hair color appeared natural and her face had (gasp!) wrinkles, you know, those little creases that come from living life without the need for artificial paralysis and those god-awful fillers that plump the cheeks of older women and then stretch their eye sockets and distort the corners of their mouth so they look like the Joker — like they’re wearing a mask they can’t take off. Every time they laugh you’re afraid their face is going to, like, shatter into a million pieces.
The only way to describe it is that this woman just looked normal. She looked like someone’s mom. Her husband stood by her side, feigning interest, no cellphone anywhere in sight, peering into the baby carriage.
The babes responded very positively to this attention, as babies are like dogs and can sniff out good people from bad before they utter a single word. I’m totally convinced that babies have all sorts of wisdom and probably know exactly what happens when you die, whether there is a god and where not paying your taxes for 18 years will get you. I think that as soon as they acquire the capacity for language they forget — like when you wake up from a dream and you sort of remember it for a little while but then the memory quickly fades.
So the babes gave this warm couple his best and biggest toothless smile and even offered up a wave, which is one of his new tricks and a real crowd pleaser. He also can growl, blow raspberries, sing and do a little wiggle dance that is just about the cutest thing you ever saw in your entire life, and I’m not just saying that even though I think if he could walk, he would walk on water.
“Oh, you just made my wife’s whole day,” the man said, giving her forearm a little squeeze.
This nice lady cooed at the baby for a while longer and he cooed right back, which I’m pretty sure made everyone within a 5-mile radius feel super happy.
“We just dropped our son off at college,” the man explained. His wife smiled, though the expression in her eyes was sad.
“It goes by so fast,” she said.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard other mothers tell me that. I’ve had a lot of dads tell me that, too, and they are always so full of regret.
“When my daughter was a baby, I just wanted her to grow up so I could just talk to her and do stuff with her,” they’ll say. “But now that she’s older, I just wish I could have that little baby back.”
I totally get it, or at least I think I do. Everyone is so amped up for the babe to sprout his first tooth and to start crawling, but I’m sort of dreading it. I’ll never forget his toothless smile or the way he opens his mouth wide and plants it on my nose and face, drooling all over me in what I can only interpret as a baby kiss. You might think it’s gross, but it’s not. It’s like the first time I ate a mango, the succulent, sticky juices dripping down my chin and discovered what living at the beach actually tastes like. There is nothing sweeter than a baby’s kiss, even if I did catch his cold and had a stuffed up nose for a whole week.
Already he’s squirming in my arms, pushing against my chest and twisting his little body and craning his head, looking elsewhere, looking for things to touch and put in his mouth.
“Where are you going?” I’ll ask. “Do you have an appointment? Do you have somewhere you need to be?”
He’s already a restless little boy, always moving, always looking around, always curious. Those moments when he is perfectly still, when he lays his head against my chest or on my shoulder, his fat little dimpled hands clutching my arm or tangled in my hair are already becoming rare. The best bet is to make him laugh, to tickle his sides or the spot between his neck and shoulders so that his beautiful high-pitched giggles rise like bubbles, the soundtrack to my long-awaited joy.
I try to be in the moment with him as much as I can. I’ll stop in the middle of a hike and wrap my arms around him, even though he’s fastened tight to my chest in the Baby Bjorn. I take a million photos and videos that I watch incessantly when I’m not with him, which makes me wonder why I pay for a babysitter. I’m always tempted to just get into my car and go straight back home.
It’s just like watching the foliage slowly descend from the peaks to the valley floor, knowing that soon the color will drain out, casting a shadow of silver and gray. Soon the season will change and bring with it shorter days, a dimmer light, crisper, colder air, and soon, the snow. I’ll adjust, I’ll be excited even, embracing the change even though part of me will mourn what is lost. Time is nothing if not fleeting. But that is precisely what makes each moment so very sweet.
The Princess is thinking about becoming a folk singer. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Two Rivers Unitarian-Universalist Church, in conjunction with the Roaring Fork Valley’s Interfaith Council and Sanctuary Unidos, is showing a Zoom presentation of the documentary “Welcome Strangers” at 10 a.m. Sunday.