Allyson and I spent this week continuing to gently settle into a new normal with our tiny little new member of the family. My mom and dad were still with us, helping us run the house and holding Aura as much as they could. Rain returned for a few days, a drizzle that seemed very Pacific Northwest, unlike much of the uncharacteristic rain we’ve gotten this year. But, sunshine was not too far away. We are easing into summer out on the coast, and it is a wonderful time to bring a child into the world.
In these early weeks of parenthood, Allyson and I have worked out feeding shifts that allow our daughter to get fed at the recommended frequency and also allow us to each get a reasonable amount of sleep. Allyson goes to bed about 8:00 or 9:00pm, and I stay up doing a feeding just before or at midnight. I’ll then do an early am feeding several hours later and sack out on the couch with Aura asleep in the pack-n-play. Allyson will get up around dawn for her next feeding, and I’ll retire to bed, sleeping in until late morning. This plays into my tendency to be a night owl and Allyson’s to be an old lady.
After everyone has gone to bed, there is a bit of daddy-daughter bonding time surrounding the feedings, diaper changes, and swaddling. Aura gets fiery angry whenever her diaper gets changed, which keeps her awake and lays the responsibility of calming her back down on my shoulders. I take this time to read to her and expose her to music. I also try to sing to her. I want to encourage singing in our household. I think too few people these days feel comfortable singing around other people. I think we’ve lost something by being so self conscious about singing and dancing. It’s this part of human nature that’s just dormant in people. So, I’m trying to sing and dance with her from the beginning. And, I want her little baby brain to be becoming a library of music from all genres and time periods. This week we’ve sampled The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Guns and Roses, Les Paul and Mary Ford, 2pac, The Velvet Underground, Daft Punk, the Pixies, Kishi Bashi, and Amy Winehouse. Playing the music, I’ll sing along, swaying with my daughter until she drifts off to sleep.
The last evening my parents were here, Hope came by and brought her guitar. Hope sang some of her own songs, popular songs, and sacred songs. I love having a room full of friends engaged in songs or games. There is something that feels very old and very new at the same time. I want this type of thing to be a regular activity in our house, for it to be regular to Aura to have a room full of people singing songs, laughing, playing games. Doesn’t that sound almost utopian for a home?
On Thursday we had a doctor’s appointment with Aura, so we loaded her into her carseat and made the short trip to Manzanita. Everything was great with her aside from some serious diaper rash. The nurses and doctors were excited to see her, because many of them were with us through much of Allyson’s pregnancy. Now they were getting to see this little person they had only previously seen in ultrasounds. Afterwards, we went for breakfast at The Big Wave. Aura snoozed in her carrier next to me as we ate. It really felt like we were a family in that moment. I told Allyson, “This is so nice.” In that moment I was grateful for many things: for our child’s health, that she was agreeable enough for us to have breakfast, that I had leave from work, that Allyson was healing, that I got to spend my life doing things I love with people I care about so much.
On Friday Allyson’s mom and brother arrived after a cross-country road trip. Allyson’s brother Andrew is moving to the Northwest for chiropractic school. He finished up his undergrad just recently, and he’ll spend the summer working on the coast with us at camp. After being in a car for days and days, Andrew was itching to hike, so we left Allyson and her mom with Aura and we headed to Neahkhanie Mountain. Andrew is in a major life transition, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time. I think one of the best ways to process moments in our life like this is to take long walks. We talked about the future, about the state of the world, about facing our insecurities, and about becoming who we are.
As we neared the summit of the the mountain, I recalled that the last time I was here was when I climbed it with Allyson, Lindsay, and Katy Branston one of the last times we were together. Katy was fresh in my mind because she would have turned 30 just recently. Hope wrote a guest post on Lakeshore’s blog, remembering her that I read the night before. I remember those conversations, catching up, not all that differently than Andrew and were doing. In a quick rush of thoughts, it occurred to me what a great role model she was for girls, how she was such a pivotal person in Hope’s life, how I wished Aura would get to meet her on a subsequent visit back to the coast. Katy was a dear friend living out West, and we had dreams of making the trip to see her in Montana, for her to return and lead camps with us. I wish I could introduce her to our daughter, taking another hike somewhere on the coast with Aura strapped to the baby backpack. We’d go back to the Pelican and swap camp stories over a pint and fish and chips. Just over a year since her visit, and she’s no longer with us. If Aura is to know KatyB, it will probably be through me now. I felt that honor and burden we as people carry as we get older to continue legacies of the great people who go before us. I felt, as I topped the mountain, how much I wanted to pass something along.
As the evening waned and everyone else went to sleep, I gave Aura her first night feeding. I changed her diaper, and she reiterated how much she does not like the activity. I wrapped her up in a swaddler and the fleecy silver blanket we just received FedEx from camp director friends Peggy and Dave from Wallowa Lake camp. She settled down and looked around without moving her head. I put on the song, “Ocean and the Rock,” by Lisa Hannigan.
I swayed with her and sang the song to her. She looked up at me and I smiled at her. She also smiled. I felt this great joy that we were both smiling. I don’t know if she smiled because I smiled. I don’t know if she smiled because she was happy in the moment, swaying and singing the way I was. I don’t know if she even associates a smile with happiness yet. I felt this joy that she might be learning these things, though. That she might already be absorbing the wonderful things around her. I hope that I pass these things I hold within myself to her in the time we will share together. I hope to connect her to so many wonderful people living and dead. For now, I am finding an incredible power in that hope, swaying with a little one in my arms singing songs to her as they come to me.