Ceramics Teacher and I were sitting on the counter at Maugenhard boys’ dorm, almost a year ago, two off-duty teachers waiting for cookies to bake and chatting with the dorm mom. We were pregnant, Ceramics Teacher a few months more than I, both excited and a bit skeptical of babies. Along with being the caregiver for twenty-ish high school boys, Dorm Mom was the successful mother of three children of her own, two in college and one a senior at BFA. We knew these kids, the bright and confident kind that lend legitimacy to any advice that comes from their parents.
And as the experienced teachers of teenagers, we needed reassurance as much as advice. Awash in the contradictions of Internet advice and the tales of our baby-overwhelmed peers, we had questions. We’ve been spending all our time with young people who are verbal, (mostly) rational beings; what will it be like to shift over to Babyland? How will we know what to do with them? Would we like them as much as we like teenagers? Couldn’t we just start with a five-year-old?
I’m remembering this conversation at Maugenhard as we drive down to visit Ceramics Teacher, her husband and now six-month old son for the weekend. The Pass is closed again, so we take the long way around, driving east instead of west. This road is wild and unfamiliar to me, having only driven it once before and never in the winter, so when we round a corner and emerge out of the fog, both Timmy and I gasp at the vista that unfolds. In every direction hills wrinkle around us, bare but for sagebrush and snow, a high desert that looks more like Central Asia than Washington State. Having come from the closed-in coziness of a hemlock forest, we drink in the massive silver sky and stoic hills, bathed in metallic winter light. This is beautiful, the best place I’ve seen in a while.
I haven’t seen anything yet. Our drive takes us south, through a narrow snowy valley, where a steely stream winds between horses, not so much wild as lonely. Then comes a deep canyon with a wide river floor, where the sun shines off of vineyard-striped hills and red cliff, turning the water sunset golden as we make our way west. At every turn, the view is magnificent, each corner more stunning than the last.
That’s when I recall what Dorm Mom told us, nervous mothers-to-be, all those month ago, talking about their first daughter as a baby. “I just remember she’d get to these phases when we’d look at her and say, ‘This is just the best. She could stay like this forever.’ And then she’d grow a little and we’d go, ‘No, we were wrong. This is the best!’ It’s different, parenting, but you’ll love it.”
Uncertain as I was last spring, I understand Dorm Mom’s sentiment now, with an almost three-month-old daughter. Better and better, every day new and surprising, and some stages so beautiful I wish I could snap them to a halt for a while. I think as we drive about how tempting it is to snatch at a moment or a season, imagining that I’ll never see anything better than what I have now. A year ago, I could have said that life was a beautiful as it had ever been up to that point. A good job doing that for which I’ve been called and gifted. A wonderful husband and a lovely home.
But staying–setting up camp at the breathtaking views or pausing infinitely in the beautiful moments–is seldom an option. Luci keeps growing, changing, and so do we. Perhaps I can’t imagine something lovelier than now, this, her. But there’s always more beauty, just around the corner, waiting to unfold as we follow Christ on the road ahead.
At the end of the school year we sat together again, three mothers surrounded by gleeful, blue-robed graduates and munching on cake. Dorm Mom’s youngest son had just graduated, and was off to a prestigious college in the fall. How does it feel, we asked her, to have your youngest child off into the world? A new phase of life.
“You know,” she replied. “It’s good. We’re proud. But,” she continued, tears in her eyes and motioning to our two growing bellies. “I wouldn’t mind being where you are now. I’d do it all again. It’s just that good.”