Hard to believe it’s been three years since I moved to this town. It was right about this time of year that I first arrived, so early springtime always brings back lots of memories. What most characterized that time of my life was its emptiness, in a good sense — no calendar full of social obligations, no places to go, nothing to do. I knew no one in this town, except for a few people I’d met through my husband, but they worked full-time jobs during the day, so all I did was quietly exist, hour by hour, in a tiny cottage we’d rented. My university semester had ended; my soon-to-be-husband was working 12-hour shifts, day and night; I had an eight-month-old baby, no internet connection, no car, no laundry facilities, and no friends. Despite the inconveniences, it was a glorious and unusual blip in the frenzy that’s been most of my life.
I spent my days in a peaceful cycle of various activities. Eating, cooking, and baking were a primary focus. So was reading books. I think that’s when A.’s love of reading truly took root because that’s really all there was to do. He had four or five toys, but his main interest was the gigantic stack of board books I checked out of the library every few days. Mostly, though, we just walked. I’d strap him into the stroller, a few rice rusks and a bottle of water tucked into the bottom, and we’d wander for hours, exploring the beautiful sandy beach which was still too cold for swimming, visiting the trails, roaming down the residential streets and gaping at the lovely homes that could fit a dozen of our modest cottage. On one memorable afternoon, he ate nearly half a box of Cheerios in the playpen, allowing me to read the entire Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. I felt slightly guilty for bribing him with food, but the book was so worth it.
During that time, I got to know my first son in a way that I’ll never know my second son. Our relationship is so different simply because of our circumstances. Now that three years have passed, I’m busy, almost too busy at times. I have so many friends that I can’t fit in all the dinner parties and playdates that I’d like to. I can’t go anywhere in town without bumping into someone I know. I have a calendar filled with events that I stick to rigidly; even walks have to be worked into the schedule because there are nursery school drop-offs and pick-ups, and afternoon naps, and play groups to be taken into consideration. I now live in a complexly intertwined web of responsibilities, pulling me in every angle. My baby gets hauled along for the ride. Of course we spend time cuddling and playing at home, but my attention is divided between the two boys. At age three, the older one is full of chatter and incessant questions that often overpower that more subtle communication that goes on between a mother and a baby.
I took the baby for a walk in the stroller on Sunday afternoon and revelled in the strangeness of it. I feel bad that he’ll never know me at that quiet time in my life, when I had no distractions from motherhood and was totally focused on my first child, yet that is the consequence of having multiple children. As an friend with three kids told me jokingly last week, “If you think the second gets lost in the mix, the third is essentially a non-event.” Maybe he’s right, but I do want to make more of an effort to spend time alone with my second son, instead of him always being a tag-along to his brother’s events. After all, he won’t be small for much longer.