Sunday, September 8, 2013

Heart Burn

My Jacob is five. He is gregarious. He is stubborn. He is enthusiastic. Everything he finds on the ground is considered a "treasure" and is immediately treated as the most fragile and precious artifact in human history. Today I was clearing out some old toys in preparation of Jacob's birthday party tomorrow. Jacob stomped towards me from the kitchen holding out an empty candy wrapper accusingly.

"MOMMY. You threw this in the trash?! THIS is not TRASH. It's TREASURE!" He resuscitated the candy wrapper's injured dignity and placed it gingerly in his "treasure jar." I was admonished at great lengths about the value of this dirty, ripped, empty wrapper and instructed to never throw it away again.

Great. My kid is a Category 3 Hoarder.

Jacob is also very sweet. He will come up to me at the most random times, throw his lanky arms around my body in a half-pint hug and tell me he loves me. I instantly melt. Unless I'm trying desperately to finish blow drying my hair so that I won't be late for work. Then I tell him to go watch cartoons.

He is easily upset but easy to calm down (with the right techniques and tricks). He is also sensitive and acutely aware when an injustice is being borne by anyone, especially himself. When he thinks I'm not looking he will grab toys away from his brother or be too rough. But if anyone else tries the same, he is right there to stand up for him (or, more frequently, to tattle). While he doesn't like to share his toys, he has a deep love for his brother and loves to make him laugh.

Jacob is very particular and methodical. Everything has to be done properly, by the correct process. If I interrupt his play or his work before the process is complete, there will be trouble. He gets this from his dad. But he has my sense of adventure and once he sees that there is a fun, new way to do things, he is very eager to try it out and experience it.

As Jacob turns five, I've been finding myself trying to remember what he was like when he was a baby. Before Ryan was born, Jacob was the center of our lives. Everything was about Jacob. Now Jacob shares us with his little brother and is independent enough to do many things alone. The stark contrast between my baby Jacob and my five year-old Jacob has me realizing how different they are. They are two different people.

My memory is very bad. I tend to live in the present and past events easily become abstract and elusive. I had a hard time remembering what baby Jacob was like until I sat down and scoured through his old baby pictures. With each picture, I was struck with a very clear memory of each particular moment. Baby Jacob started to come back to life. I began to remember him more clearly. The way he used to say "num" for water. The way he would tell us "back" as he put an item in its proper place. The way he used to look up at me so helpless and expectant, trusting in me so completely. How his tiny little hands used to fit in my palm. How he used to fall asleep on my lap and snore loudly.

These memories, that used to be so distant, rushed at me with so much force that I was overcome by grief. I suddenly missed that baby Jacob so terribly that I began to ache for him. "But," I reasoned, "he is gone." And it's the truth. Although five year-old Jacob is here for me to touch and feel and experience, baby Jacob is gone. He will never be here again.

I will never rock that sweet baby to sleep in my exhausted arms, waiting so patiently for his breathing to become regular. He now falls asleep on the top bunk of his big boy bed after I leave his room. I will never again admire his disproportionate, almost cartoonish, head. His body has finally caught up with his head size. I will never again be able to gaze at his bright blue eyes. Those eyes are now green.

My heart feels like it is burning from the inside out. I am helpless to the passage of time. With each year that passes and each birthday we celebrate, baby Jacob is left further behind. My greatest fear is that some day, I will forget him. That these memories will lose their power. That there will no longer be any recollection behind the pictures. That the heart and magic behind each photo will escape and leave behind only a hollow 2D outline of a sweet little baby that I once loved. A baby that was my whole entire world.

This feeling is a new one for me borne out of the perspective I've gained with the passage of time about the shortness of Jacob's year of baby hood. It makes me clutch Ryan so much tighter. And it makes me bawl thick, warm tears in the quiet of the evening.

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