Note: I wrote this over the summer when I was away from my computer, so it’s now a bit out of date.
When I put Oren to bed I read two books: one about trucks, and one about something (anything!) besides trucks. Then I zip him into a sleep sack, light or heavy depending on the weather, sing him a song (usually Blue Spotted Tail by Fleet Foxes), and lay him on his back, with a stuffed Wooly mammoth in one arm and its extant cousin, an elephant, in the other. If I’ve timed it right then he’ll stare back at me with eyes glazed over, reach his hand up, and mindlessly twirl his mullet. This is his personal sign language for “I’ll be asleep in about 45 seconds.”
He doesn’t fight sleep. He surrenders to it instead, like the gift that it is. It’s a gift to Rachael and me, too – not just his own sleep, but the ability for us to sleep as well.
An hour or two after Oren has fallen asleep Rachael and I will sneak back into his room. We’ll look over him with smiling eyes, having forgotten whatever transpired earlier that day that made us long for this precise moment.
Sometimes I’ve just come from a bright room and will be blind in the darkness. I’ll navigate to the side of his crib by memory. I’ll feel around until I’ve found his chest or his back and then lay my hand across it to feel it rising and falling with each tiny, whispering, rhythmic breath.
These visits are mostly practical: I want to make sure that he’s still breathing, as if it’s only my vigilant observation that keeps him alive. But there’s another, more important reason. When I look over the edge of Oren’s crib and see him lying on his back, breathing his tiny baby breaths, I can filter the bad memories from the good.
Almost everything is better imagined than realized. Or at least re-imagined. And it’s through this regular re-imagining, night after night, that I regain the energy to fight through the reality, which is often mundane or frustrating or exhausting or somehow all three of these things at once. I can forget that he refused to eat any of the breakfast which I’d spent half an hour making. I can forget that for 90 minutes this morning he could not stand to be physically separated from me, and that in order to get anything done I had to buckle him into our baby carrier in a kind of body-on-body time out. I can forget the crayon on the walls, the peanut butter on the piano, and the shards of glass on the floor. And maybe I can even forget that though he understands most everything we say to him, and can even muster a few dozen words of his own1, he still prefers the sounds “dee,” “doo,” and “dah,” which I swear sound like they belong in the early Pleistocene.
Maybe instead of forgetting these things I ought to look back on them fondly, as if they’re the lead-up to some cosmic joke whose punchline is a wispy-haired toddler who is almost always grinning with delight. Except, of course, when he’s not.
Oren in our apartment in Baku. His favorite toy is still the spray bottle. It’s also his least favorite — sometimes he forgets where he’s sprayed and then slips and falls on the wet floor.
Watering the plants on the balcony.
Rachael and Oren at Hope Lake in Zaqatala, Azerbaijan.
Hanging out with his Pepe Ricky (my dad) a few days after we returned to Oregon for our summer vacation.
Screwing up all the settings on Pepe’s automatic irrigation system.
Everything that looks remotely like a bug is a “bee!” Oren gets a closer look.
Helping Mama make a vegan meringue.
Sitting on an old tree stump on the beach in Manzanita.
Exploring the tide pools at the foot of Neahkahnie Mountain.
Oren shows his love with kisses, even for hermit crabs.
Sometimes it’ll get really quiet and we’ll go in to find Idara reading to Oren.
Posing with red cedar roots.
Running on the path to Short Sands Beach.
Happy Oren next to Short Sand Creek.
Sad Oren next to Short Sand Creek.
Grammy, Oren, Idara, me, and Toby at Grammy’s house.
Getting clean/dirty at the Gorge Campground on the Metolius River in Central Oregon.
Oren’s first geocache, found outside of Redmond.
We drove the long way from Redmond to Pendleton to visit my Grandpa. We stopped along the way to have lunch (and read) in the Ochoco Mountains.
Cousins outside the house we rented in Pendleton.
Playing Legos with Rachael.
Oren playing with his (early) birthday present from Forrest and Vanessa. He likes to lay down on the floor like this when he plays with cars. I assume it gives him a more realistic vantage point, but who knows?
How could you not love this child?
On a walk near Puyallup, monster truck in hand.
At the edge of a suburban stream.
Among them: Mama, Papa (for me and his grandfather), Mimi (for his grandmother), Tía, Tío, Dee (this is his Swiss Army word, useful for describing everything, but it also seems to refer to Idara specifically), kitty (or “mew,” like the sound a baby kitten makes), ball, puppy, car, wooly, door, more, boobies (reinforced by the question Rachael asks him each night: “¿Quieres boobies?”), agua (water), da ta (he says this when he wants you to pick him up, but I have no idea why), cow (also useful for horse, goat, sheep, zebra, elephant, and manatee), pee pee, poopy, bebé, tree, bee (he uses this word for any bug that flies, and many which do not), blimp (?), cookie (for cookies, and for any food at all – I try not to think too hard about what this says about his diet), día (short for sandía, which is Spanish for watermelon). ↩