Go West

In the weeks before we left Norway to come to America, Michael listened to ‘Go West‘ as he walked to work every day. Going west was an adventure, with wonderful parts and difficult parts. It is strange, in the days before we leave here, to be in a place which so soon will only exist for us as memories. I think Michael’s favourite part of being here was all the photo opportunities. The images take on lives of their own, often more resonant with suggestiveness than the moments themselves had been. The dogs panting at the Interstate Oasis, the fierce red rock of Moab, the cross-hatched textures of earth in the Kennecot Copper Mine, and the mountain-tops, lakes and deep forests of the Glacier National Park. Below the fold are images that didn’t make it into earlier posts – a montage of doorways, cars, characters, creatures, and, always, the open road.

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Packing up

Felix has been getting into the spirit of things. No, really. This week, for the first time, he has been all about putting things inside other things. The other night in the bath, he spent a good ten minutes assiduously stuffing his squeezy sheep into a plastic cup, and then immediately scrabbling it out again. Michael, I said, come and look at this! And he sat on the bathroom floor, and we cheered and cheered, amazed at our son putting a toy in and out of a cup, over and over. Clearly a genius. (This is not to discount the pleasure of putting a baby in a box.)

We have only two days left here. We are mostly packed. We’ll ship our last two boxes tomorrow, and somehow fit everything else into our bags (maybe Felix will help). We’ve started cleaning our apartment but there is lots more cleaning to go. It will be a relief to get on the plane, despite the fact a long flight with a nine month old may not be terribly relaxing.

Today was Thanksgiving, and we had dinner with two of the women from my Mom’s group and their families. It was a lovely way to conclude our time here. The Mom’s meetup group has been, for me, one of the best things about being here. They even held a farewell meetup for me on Tuesday; I was so touched.

The past few days I have been walking my familiar paths, stopping in my familiar places, feeling like a ghost of myself.

On Monday we said goodbye to my friend Katya and her daughter Willow, who is almost exactly Felix’s age. Sharing our entry into motherhood over the past six months has been wonderful and I felt so sad after saying goodbye. We have decided to rectify the situation and see each other one more time before we leave. And I do so hope they visit us in Norway someday.

But this time next week we’ll be in Australia. This sounds too good to be true!

Sing me to sleep

One night a few weeks ago, Felix couldn’t sleep. After some distress (on both our parts), I worked out he must have a tummy-ache, so I gave him some panadol, nursed him to calm him down, and then lay next to him and told him a story.

Once upon a time, I said, there was a boy who lived in a stone fortress on a hill by the sea. From the fortress he could see the ships coming and going in the harbour, but they never stopped for long. In the winter the hill was glittery-cold, in spring and summer it was tangled purple and green, but in autumn, when the setting sun hit the fortress’s cobblestones, they seemed to form a golden path to somewhere he had never been. In the forest behind the hill there lived a hare with long feet and long ears, a deer with a white tail, and a wolf as grey and quiet as mist.

He looked up at me with clear and serious eyes through the darkness. ‘Bah’, he said quietly, ‘bah bah, blah blah!’ He smiled. Then he flopped his arms towards me, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

***

A couple of nights ago, he woke in great distress after only sleeping for an hour. The only way to calm him was to get him up and play with him for a while in the bright lounge room. Then I nursed him in the bedroom for a while but he was still upset, so I sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I thought I would continue with my story, but that made him cry too, so I went back to the song. I sang it over and over. He clutched a little white teddy bear, stroking its fur and staring at me. He looked like a little boy, not a baby. He looked sad and brave and alone, like he was trying with all his might to be strong. His fingers tugged at the red ribbon around the bear’s neck. And my heart ached to think of all that lies before him, everything he’ll have to find the answer to all on his own. And then he poked out his tongue and stuck his finger up my nose.

Nine months

You are nine months and three days old. That’s closer to a year than it is to six months. How strange. Your little personality shines out so strongly now. When you were just a few weeks old, I took you to a baby group in Norway. You were the littlest one there. I looked at all the big babies and thought that you were so special because you were so small. But now you are a big baby, and I love having a big baby best of all.

You love to play.

You love to laugh. And you love to dance. You have perfected the most gorgeous ‘jiggle wriggle’, which you perform with gusto whenever we say those words. Your father has taught you to give high fives.

You love to babble. You say dadadada and bawawa and tch tch tch. I think yesterday you invented your first little word: ‘da!’, meaning ‘that one!’, or ‘take me there!’. You said it when we passed the duplo table in the Barnes and Noble, and later when you spied my mobile phone, and again when you saw me get out a jar of fruit.

You are very dextrous now and like to feed yourself peas and bread-crumbs. You like to drink from a big water bottle instead of your sippy cup.

You love to snuggle. You invented a game the other day of holding onto the couch then flopping into my arms, giggling madly, over and over and over. When I got tired of it and sat you on the floor with a water bottle to play with, you thought the game was still going, and were very disappointed when you flopped down and landed on the floor.

Every night before you go to sleep, after your evening feed, we read about your friend the owl in The Book of Sleep. You smile and point at little details in the illustrations. Then you cuddle your lion and start to yawn, and once I zip you into your sleeping back and sing ‘hush little baby’, you are well on your way to snoozy land.

Happy and sad

Felix and I have been alone in Salt Lake City for a couple of days, while Michael flew to Chicago and back. We have done some errands and visited coffee shops, gardens and parks. Last night I took Felix out to dinner at our favourite Noodles & Co. I had a glass of wine with my meal. It was possibly the first time I had ordered a glass of wine for myself when no one else was drinking (I was going to say when dining alone, but I wasn’t). I felt the warmth of the wine tingle down my shoulders. Felix was blissed out. He sat in the highchair, holding onto the front of it, looking around at everyone and up at the lights, doing a slow happy jiggle, opening his mouth distractedly every now and again for me to spoon more food in. He’d already eaten up a good portion of the ciabatta roll, crumb by crumb. When I put some of his rice puffs on the table in front of him he pounced on them with delight. Felix, I said, I love you so.

But I have been feeling sad, too. Recently, three of my good friends lost much wanted pregnancies, one right at the end of the first trimester, and two into the second trimester. It is heartbreaking.

Tonight, at another Noodles & Co (there are plenty), ‘Are we human, or are we dancer’ came on the radio. It tunneled me back a few years, when it was one of the songs played in my yoga class at the gym. I would listen to it, and the other songs, and think of my friend Kate, who died for no good reason, when a truck ploughed into her bike. And here it was again.

I thought of Kate, who will never have a child. I thought of my friends. I thought of the little lost ones who lived such a short time and couldn’t get beyond life’s beginnings. I thought of the frail marks they leave on the world. The hearts they re-arrange. The beautiful name of my friend’s son, stillborn at 20 weeks. And my own little one, with no name but only a clutch of poems.

Outside the late autumn light flared in the trees.

Felix knew the answer to the song. He smiled and wriggle-jiggled and kicked his legs and danced.

Our last trip to Salt Lake City

We couldn’t help but come down here one last time. We may come back one day, but it won’t be for a while. When we were here in May, the snow hadn’t yet melted on the tops of the mountains, and just now it’s begun falling again.

The mountains are covered lightly, so you can still see their textured skin, and the autumn leaves look like frosted glass.

Felix looks like a very big, very warm teddy bear.