It seems like it was only last week that I was in the hospital, propped up on pillows as he peacefully slept in my arms, all freshly swaddled ten pounds of him, curled up under my chin, the busy sound of nurses opening and closing doors, in and out, in and out, bringing fresh water and crushed ice, running all those routine tests they run on newborns. He didn’t have a name for two days because we couldn’t decide which of our choices suited him best, until the woman handling the birth certificates at the hospital urged us to come up with one before we were discharged. I remember deciding on his name just minutes before she left for the day. His middle name would be Moon, because he was born on the day of the beautiful Harvest Moon that September.
And then I blinked and today he’s a year old.
His eyes were so blue for the first six months, as blue as my grandmother’s were, these giant, knowing orbs staring back at me. I would look into his eyes and see her face, her features in his, her flat nose and high cheekbones passed down by generations of her Native American ancestors, seemingly reincarnated in his gaze, as if reassuring me she was there in some form.
There are so many things I want to remember about his first year. I want to remember his funny walk, how he toddled at nine months with such confidence and precision he was nearly running by the time he reached his first birthday. How, today, when I catch his little cowboy gait out of the corner of my eye while cooking dinner, I laugh to myself at my mini John Wayne, moseying around like a wayward old soul searching for his horse.
I want to remember his baby laugh, how he scrunches up his nose and takes quick little breaths in and out until he nearly snorts, belly-laughing as if he’s never seen or heard anything so funny in his life. I want to remember how he asks “hot?” whenever he gets within two feet of the oven or when I scoop his steaming dinner onto his high chair tray. He watches me blow on his food to cool it down and then mimics me, making his own adorable attempt. He asks “hot?” for just about anything that means “caution” or “don’t touch.” Any possible threat is now simply, “hot?”
I want to remember how much he loves food and the little eating happy dance he breaks into after taking a bite of something particularly delicious, swinging his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder, smiling with his entire face.
“Nummy, nummy, nummy,” he says.
I know these memories of his first year will fade and fall into that place between memory and make-believe, where I won’t be able to remember the sound of his baby-voice saying “Ma-ma,” or which month he started saying it. Was it seven months? Or was it eight months?
I’m already forgetting.
I know he has seven teeth now, but I can’t recall the various weeks they all pushed through his gums. I know with certainty he loves to use those seven teeth to bite me. He’s bitten the skin of my forearm so hard, he’s left bruises. For some reason, he thinks this is quite hilarious.
At one year, he is a mild-mannered, independent little spirit. He doesn’t need anyone to entertain him, because he can amuse himself. I had no idea a shampoo bottle stolen from my bathtub could give him such a thrill. When he needs me, he’ll find me, peaking around the corner and running into my arms, his own arms outstretched like bird wings. At this age, he’s so much more attached to me than my other sons were. If he hears my voice in the other room, even while playing with daddy, he’ll inevitably find me and seek me out, looking for cuddles.
He claps for himself and waves “goodbye.” He loves to wrestle with his middle brother and can really hold his own, even when brother gets a little too rough with him at times. He’s strong and coordinated, gentle and sensitive all rolled into one.
Last weekend, we held a small first birthday party for him in our favorite park. Family and friends stopped by, some with babies of their own. The “Love you to the moon and back” theme was fitting, considering his name. We hung giant white “moon” lanterns in the trees and played a soundtrack of songs with “moon” in the title. Whenever Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” played, he bobbed his head and clapped his hands in rhythm. This boy loves to dance.
We sipped lemonade and iced tea, ate sandwiches and salads and devoured the most delicious cake. We sung Happy Birthday and he clapped for himself and laughed. After attempting to blow out his candle and asking “hot?” he promptly picked up his cake with one hand and shoved it squarely into his mouth. And then, as if on cue, it started pouring down rain as the party came to an abrupt end. It was such a nice day, mellow and serene, just like the birthday boy himself.
Happy First Birthday, my little moonbeam. This year went by much too quickly, but it has easily been one of the best of my life, simply because you’re in it.