Six years after I got engaged, I’m awake before dawn in a too-bright room, in a house I just moved into last night, listening to a baby roll over.
To be accurate, I’m listening to my daughter, who is both proud and a little annoyed that she’s just rolled over, lying in a crib about eighteen inches from me and wriggling and grunting in an unsettled way. I think about turning her back over, but I’ve done that a few times already and she immediately rolls to her stomach because, you see, she can. I’d forgotten about this quirk of little babies, that as soon as they learn to do a new thing, they want to do it constantly, day and night. Since she didn’t really master rolling until yesterday, these dark hours are prime practice time.
So I listen, and think about that night in the woods, six years ago, when my husband asked me to marry him. It was a cold night like last night, with old snow on the ground, shining in the moonlight, and I walked on well-known trails through a well-loved forest, to find him there, waiting by a fire with a ring and a question. It was perfect, a brilliant beginning for this new volume of life together.
Yesterday, we moved ourselves, our two daughters, and all the things we own from one house in Seattle to another one. It went smoothly overall, but it was stressful and tiring all the same. There were two houses to clean: the one we were leaving and, unfortunately, the one we were coming to. There was a shower with no curtain rod, more trips than we wanted in the big rented U-Haul van, and badly-written IKEA directions that tried all of our patience. By bedtime, when we tried to fall asleep with a streetlight shining into our blind-less new bedroom windows, we were too tired to reflect on much more than how soon we needed to get up. Still, I think to myself as I listen to our daughter, life is better, we are better, than on that perfect night in the woods.
The magic of babies is that they don’t know what’s ahead, and really small ones don’t even know that they don’t know. Every new experience is fresh and exciting to Eleanor, and rolling over is literally the best thing she’s ever done in her life. Later, I’m sure at some point she’ll be frustrated that she can’t walk like her sister, but for now, this is the pinnacle of her existence. I rolled over, she thinks. Can life even get better?
And that’s how I think about our engagement now, a moment that seems like yesterday and like decades ago. We were so happy we didn’t even know this was “just” rolling over, didn’t know exactly how good it was going to get in the years ahead, or the challenges that we’d face later, making the details of planning a wedding, even a wedding on a different continent, seem laughably easy now. It was rolling over: an important and exciting step on the way to even better seasons, and I’m glad we didn’t stop there. I’m glad we learned to walk, and I’m glad we’re still learning, together, walking a good journey towards places we can’t yet see.