Lately we (Sydney and I) have taken to foraging. In the fleeting moments between daycare and dusk, we take to the streets, gathering treasures, stuffing our pockets and fists--and sometimes, when one of us (ahem) isn't looking, our mouths--with stones and acorns and rose petals from the neighbor's yard. Sydney is at her most intent during these walks, toddling purposefully toward some gleaming speck, turning it over and over in her tiny hands, inspecting every surface before moving on to the next discovery. It is one of the small, private joys of parenthood: trailing along after this brand new person, this life you created, this amazed and amazing little girl, whose sole job is to explore, to hunt, to gather as much as possible from the world before night falls at last.
I've been feeling sort of off lately, empty in a way, for no discernible reason. I have all the trappings of a happy life, and I am happy, mostly. And yet.
After Sydney was born I remember saying to someone--Jill, I think--that becoming a parent sobers you, makes you more cautious. Sydney, newly delivered and so fragile, so helpless, slept open-mouthed on my shoulder as I talked into the phone, overcome with a sorrow I had not anticipated. I had a healthy baby, a flawless birth, I was with my family in Florida, our home in New Orleans had survived. But I was terribly somber, overwhelmed by the force of it all. And I don't think that it was really the responsibility for another life that bowled me over, but the realization that my gathering days were over, it was no longer my turn, that it was now time for me to start giving away all that I had collected.
There's a line in a John Mayer song that goes something like So scared of getting older/I'm only good at being young and it's so true, so painfully true, and not because I want to quit my job and play all day but because I'm not ready to start giving it all away, these pieces of me that I've spent a lifetime collecting. I'm not a gardener; I don't have the patience, the faith required to bury seeds in the earth and wait for spring. I'm more inclined to scatter my wares to the wind, as many as possible, hoping that some of them take root, that some of them survive. The problem with this tactic, of course, is that one has no way of knowing where to look come spring.
I know now that this whole growing up thing involves a series of small offerings, the gradual but not always methodical scattering of self. The trick, I guess, is to keep track of where you put the pieces.