Sunday was Julia’s first birthday. We didn’t spend the day the way some would have, with colorful streamers, bright balloons, a fluffy frosted cake and cheering friends. Well, we did met with friends, the Fabulous Bozoma and the Lady L. The adults held chilled flutes of champers and had a small toast to Julia’s birth then enjoyed a long, leisurely afternoon catch-up chat over some baked branzino prepared Senegalese style, with fried plantains and onions, that we’d ordered in. Julia dined on organic peas and turkey, the Lady Lael, a bit of rice and fish. After the meal and playtime as Bozoma’s daughter headed to a nap into the late afternoon, Julia and I headed for home.
As the baby and I made our way south, we passed the new buildings and old, kids on bikes, forty something men in Spandex working Rollerblades. We crossed at the new French style round about at 110th Street, with the green light, and strolled from east to west, into the Central Park. And as the murky, green water of the Harlem Mere, its broad-football-bodied geese, the summer children, running, playing, skipping, came into view, slowly, I remembered.
How long had it been? Six, seven, eight years ago? I wandering through this ground, clawing my way toward home, so lost, so alone after finding out that I hadn’t ovulated, that the month was a bust, that I couldn’t try to conceive. That day I fled the fertility doctor’s office on east 90th Street, trailing a back wash of misery, so despondent, so crushed by grief and regret. How amazing to know, years later, I stood on same ground born a new. Just another mother and child.
In the evening as I prepared Julia for bed, removing her purple sundress, I studied her naval, a small star burst of skin sitting within the curve of her belly. Her first portal of connection. Small words of thanks started up in my brain, a spontaneous jester, like, I believe a curtsy would come to a commoner before the Queen Mom. I thanked the woman who’d given birth to my daughter. The woman who had more courage than I could ever gather. The woman who let Julia go. What was this day like for her? Did she sit with a friend and silently, solemnly, slipping into grief? Did something deep down in her fill up, over flow and crack under the weight of memory and loss.
As I lowered Julia into the soft, cotton candy pink sheets of her bed, I knew why I’d spent Sunday, as I had, why I didn’t want to a big party, a big to-do, to whoop things up for my daughter’s first birthday. For all that I have gained, a couple, somewhere on the other side of the world, has lost more. I thought of what they’d given away with open arms, a wide open, reinforced heart. They set their tiny daughter on the waters of faith and believed someone would be on the other side to bring her ashore.
I am eternally grateful.