I’d probably still be writing proposals, to be honest. I’d be sitting in my black leather swivel chair, my pointy heels and my slacks. I’d have my hair curled and my lips lined.
I’d arrive at work every morning and pour a cup of coffee in the break room. My hands wrapped around it, I’d catch up on e-mail and create my to-do list for the day. I’d run meetings and lead conference calls and I’d take an hour break for lunch. I’d probably still have most of the same co-workers, and be in on all the same office drama.
Or, I might be selling vintage clothes full-time. I’d keep a collection in the guest bedroom, and delicately press each lace dress into an envelope before sending it off to a new owner. I’d take my old Etsy business and really ramp it up. I’d create a DIY logo and print off some glossy business cards. I’d have a presence at every trade show and pop-up event in town.
I may have even opened that restaurant your papa and I always talked about. Our little town doesn’t have a Mexican restaurant and could really use one. Maybe one day, if you’re reading this years later, that will have changed. But right now, it’s just hamburger joints and a breakfast diner and if you don’t want that, you go hungry. We always talked about opening up a fast-food taco joint in this town, one that delivered so even new moms in their sweats could get a decent chalupa at 10 p.m.
Instead I had you, sweet girl, in 2014. You were new and precious and we had a blindingly beautiful two years together. Now it’s you, me and your brother every day and I wake up to you guys singing upstairs. I’m so tired I can’t even see straight sometimes—but that early morning symphony? Even the prettiest songbirds can’t compare.
I’d probably have more time at night with your papa. Right now, we put you guys to bed at 8 p.m.and after you take a bath, you’re still raring to go. You want to sing and jump on the bed. You want another glass of water or 12. You want me to bring all your library books up from the living room so you can read them by your lamplight until well past 10 p.m.
I wouldn’t be up so late, that’s for sure. I could do my writing during the day and have my evenings and afternoons just for myself. I’d pour more bubble baths and drink a little more wine. On the weekends, I wouldn’t get up at 6:30 a.m. just like any other day. I’d savor the sheets and snuggle under the covers until almost noon like I used to do in college.
But honestly, baby? I’d miss you, even if I never met you.
I remember one day when I was pregnant with you: we lived in your great-grandfather’s house a mile away from where we live now. Your papa and I were in our 20s still and we used to take walks down the country road every day. We used to walk just for enjoyment, a slow stroll with your dog Pablo in the evenings after work.
Toward the end, when you were nearing your due date, we walked like cartoon characters fleeing a fire-breathing dragon. We moved with such intensity it was almost hilarious, as we tried anything and everything to get you to come out. I remember walking one night and saying, “Isn’t it so crazy that there’s someone in here right now that we’ve never met? Someone who is going to be a huge part of our lives for the rest of our lives and we haven’t even met him or her yet?”
It struck me as so beautifully strange that you were in our midst, but we didn’t yet know what your eyes looked like, or how your laugh sounded.
We didn’t know that you’d come out with tons of dark hair, only to lose it and become sweetly bald for about a year. We didn’t know you’d have your papa’s face, my shape and our shared love for biscuits on Saturday mornings. How could we anticipate that your brother would come along less than two years later looking like a straight-up Viking with his white-blonde hair and ice blue eyes? That he’d take 14 months to walk but zero seconds to totally steal our hearts?
We couldn’t know any of those things, but we hoped for them. We prayed so many nights for them.
And son and daughter of mine, if I weren’t yours, I’d spend my whole life wishing I was. I might not have bags under my eyes and those premature gray hairs I keep spotting, but I’d also never know how it feels to be hit with 35 pounds of pure sugar as you come running into my arms after a morning at preschool. A baby hand grasped onto mine? That’s about all anyone can hope for in this world, I think.
The chance to shape a tiny heart, then give it room to find its own way. The chance to immerse myself so deeply into the care for another that I lose myself a little along the way, but amid the diapers and the tiny clothes and blankets and car seats there’s something sacred.
And when you find it? When you lock eyes with that joy and tangibly feel that goodness? You’d swim across the ocean with your eyes closed to feel it again. You’d stand out in a dust storm and run through fire for it.
You forget how it could be, and run headfirst into what it is.