Joy is a big word for me, one that elicits an immediate visual. Until this day, the vision has been of two blond golden retriever puppies frolicking in the sunshine atop freshly mown, fragrant grass. They are romping around, tumbling end over end with one another, stopping only to hunker down, inviting, low playful growls with butts in the air, front paws forward, one offering a fake me out left and then going right, begging the other to make chase. Simple, pure and natural.
Joy, as I define it, is one of the gifts I hope to bestow upon my child in particular. I hope to learn it, accept it well enough to embrace it, give it and teach it as a way of life. Incidentally, this is a relatively lofty goal, as I was not born on a particularly sunshiny day.
Nathan recently bestowed his gift of joy upon me, teaching me, as he so often does, that which I wish him to learn.
It was Monday, April 21, 2008. We were out shopping for a friend’s birthday gift. I was five and a half weeks pregnant. In a cooking gadget store, I picked up and offered Nathan a pair of kids’ chopsticks to keep him occupied as we wandered. Of course he required a full explanation of this odd utensil and later insisted that we try them out over a lunch of sushi. I was happy to oblige. He was pushing for Sushi on the Rocks, but I managed to convince him that Jimbo’s would do the job just fine, thank you very much. We got our California Roll and big bottle of Pellegrino and headed to a table at the front of the store. Sushi on the Rocks may have offered a better ambiance to the typical diner despite its darkness; but for me, I was happy to be seated in a grocery store in the brightness of a spring afternoon watching the light play in my son’s beautiful blue eyes. If this weren’t enough, Nathan was so enchanted with the sushi, the chopsticks and the bubbles of the Pellegrino, he would intermittently, without notice, sort of throw himself at me in celebration of it all--arms around my neck, hanging, giggling and chattering about the ‘spiciness’ of the Pellegrino. I can still feel the weight of his three year old body flinging himself at me, the sweetness of his breath in my face, and the music of his laughter. Simple, pure, and natural.
We wrapped up our lunch, collected our trash and prepared to make a trip to the restroom before heading home. As I stood, I felt a warmth rushing from my body. A wave of knowing came over me, weakening me. Everything began to move in slow motion. Oddly, I was completely patient with having to wait our turn for the restroom, with Nathan insisting he take his turn ahead of me and then continuing a little happy dance around the facility. None of it was to make a difference and I knew it.
Thankfully, the restroom was private and Nathan was still inebriated from the bubbles and sushi, only requiring the slightest distraction as my disposition deteriorated to stony cold as my heart, my hopes, spilled from my body in a place almost as impersonal as they entered it.
The rest of the afternoon was carried out as if by some oddly efficient, glassy eyed, numb Stepford wife well versed in the perils of family planning for the less fortunate.
That day, a year ago, held some best moments and certainly some worst. In the end I am ever grateful for our son and the joy he brings to our lives, not just that day, but most days.