When I pick you up, you don’t smell like me. You don’t smell like my baby and my hair and my lotion and my love. You smell different. You smell like hospital. Like gowns and cold and gray and isolation. You smell unfamiliar. Distant. Independent. I don’t know this smell on you. You smell like Clorox wipes. Like sanitizer. Like dried snot and dried paint and dried milk I didn’t give you.
You have a red stain next to your ear. What did you eat today, my love? You have a scratch next to your eye. Who did this to you, my love? You are wearing different pants. Your teeth are looking a little fuller, you belly is rounding out. Your wobbly legs have steadied and you are harder to make laugh. Your bow is gone and your dress is torn and the threads hang off the bottom.
It is hard to say goodbye. I scoot you into your little chair, distract you with a toy or a friend and I whisk out the door before you notice. I sneak back around the corner to see you play, but you are just watching for me, waiting for me, wondering about me. I’m so sorry my love, I can’t stay.
And some part of me knows this is normal. This is natural. This is a testament to our love for each other. I miss you but I also must leave. And you must leave me. This is the first of ten thousand goodbyes, and I wonder if they ever hurt less. I wonder if watching you walk into your first-grade classroom or your seventh-grade classroom or your dorm room hurts less than this.
I say goodbye, and I am reminded that you are not mine. I’m used to carrying you around like water in my water bottle. Chucked in my purse. Thrown in the back seat of the car. Waiting on my desk at work. Free and available whenever I please. And now, it’s different.
Except nothing has changed.
I’m just reminded of who you are and who I am.
I have borrowed time with you. I get to raise you and adore you and teach you and push you and carry you and sleep with you and admire you and praise you and cheer for you, but you are not mine. You are not anyone’s water in a bottle.
You are the Ocean. You are the raging sea and the deep blue calm. Your waves crash upon my shore and I run around like a frantic lunatic trying to grasp and hold your droplets. When I open my clasped hand, you are gone. I eagerly try to scoop you up with buckets and shovels and sand pails. This strategy also fails me. When I am finished attempting to collect you, I find myself exhausted and panting, gripping the sand and the earth with my fingers and tears. I am left without you.
I have no choice. I surrender. All I can do is stand back in awe of you. I breathe you in deeply, I smell your salty air, I feel your gentle breeze, I admire who you are.
My Ocean baby.
I long for you, but I cannot contain you. I desire you, but I cannot consume you. I ache for you, but you cannot be tamed. You cannot be kept. You cannot be held down or held back and screwed in to fit my perfect baby Addie box. You take the shape of whatever container I pour you in, but I look back at a trail of water and realize you stretch further and wider and deeper than I ever guessed. I don’t know you. You are a mystery to me. And I look out to the point where the waves meet the sand and am shocked by the number of people swimming and crashing and laughing and enjoying you.
Jealous, I dive in to cool off and back float on your ever stretching and expanding love.
“Agoo?” I ask and wait for your response.
“Do I really have to share you with all these goddamn people, forever?”
“But I can’t. It hurts too bad. I want you. I want to hold you. I wish you weren’t this big. I wish you didn’t have to affect ALL OF THESE LIVES. I don’t even know who these people are, baby. What about my life, baby?”
“I know, mama.”
“I don’t think I’m brave enough to leave you or to watch you walk away.”
“You are mama.”
“How do you know Agoo?”
“You’ve got to go be your own Ocean mama, I’ll be mine. We were born to do this.”
I trust you, baby.
I trust you to become more and more of yourself. I trust you to fill and empty and fill and empty. I trust you to be a safe-haven for some and an adventure for others. I trust you to be calm and gentle and at peace. I also trust you to RAGE. Hard. I trust you to continue on your eternal path that brings life and beauty and inspiration to the world, as your Creator designed you to be.
I will be doing the same.
I love you, Ocean baby. I’ll swim your depths forever.