There's a sadness swelling up in me knowing that my baby is starting preschool next month. He's nearly three now, though I still find that hard to believe. He is so independent, so ready to take on the world already, that some days I already feel like I'm trying to wrangle a defiant teenager. Those days when he would fall asleep on my chest, wrapped in warm blankets while Christmas music played in the background are long gone.
But there is something more trying on my heart than the fact that his baby days are over. I pour over photographs of those first days and months, and I realize that so much of his infancy is all gone. Even the memories. Especially the memories.
I cannot, even when I look at these pictures, remember him being so achingly tiny. Although the cries of newborns in the hospital fill me with nostalgia, I cannot remember that first fumbling night with him. Though I remember how he used to hum while he slept, I cannot hear the sound of it ringing in my ears anymore. It's as if that time has been erased from my memory, and the only memories I have are those supplemented by images, videos, stories I tell myself to keep from forgetting.
Then as if he knows that my heart is aching for him, for memories that I can cling tight to, he stumbles into the hallway wrapped in his blanket as I'm getting ready to go to bed the other night. He says, "mama needs you," which is what he says when he wants to be picked up and loved. Never, "I need mama." Mama needs you.
And it's true, my love, I do need you. I need to scoop you up and carry you back to your bed. I need to sing you those old lullabies until you fall asleep. I need to stroke your head and stare are your face in the low light of your teddy bear nightlight. Remembering how you used to look lying in my arms, because tonight you look just the same.