When first the child appears in one’s life, joy and chaos and suffering and the-not-knowing-anything and oh-my-god-what-has-happened-to-my-lovely-body predominates. There are tears. And helpless husbands. It is a messy arrival in every way one can imagine.
And then, if one is very lucky and patient, the arrival settles into happy habit: one syllable worded books, soft objects, soft breasts, long walks, quiet amazement, slippery food staining the walls, silence in the afternoon while the infant sleeps and the planes fly overhead. Blossoms grow or wither according to the season of the birth. While the other half of you sleeps, it is possible to hear and witness this.
For some, the arrival occurs again. And then perhaps once more or, for the brave or accident prone, even more than that. They are here. Remember the wonder and relief Wilbur feels deep in his round porcine body when three of Charlotte’s children chose to stay in the barn? E.B. White was writing, I think, about being a parent. The arrival usually accompanies some impossible thought of “please stay, please stay, please stay, though your instincts be otherwise…”
Too soon, the arrival turns into a preparation for departure. Almost immediately, in fact. The sitting up is a rejection of one’s arms being a replacement for the not-yet strong enough spine; the crawling is eager practice for walking. Then running. Away.
It doesn’t happen all at once. There must be hesitancy, fear, practice, and the confirmation that even if the child is leaving on some adventure, one must stay put, ready to receive a wounded limb or heart at a moment’s notice. The child, too, thinks “Stay. Stay. Stay…”
Before the final leave taking, there must be much chaos, joy, and realizations of not-knowing-anything (although this part is kept tucked away, perhaps in a journal one will never get to read). The leaving is, actually, so much like the arrival. Very messy.
And, since they have each other, secret consultations take place, out of earshot, though one senses their general drift.
Finally, there is the departure. There are many departures, many gates that lead the child away, away, away. Through some of the gates one might occasionally follow. Most, though, are closed to tourists, no matter how much love they possess for what lies beyond them.