Five years ago today I birthed the smallest and most precious gift, bringing a little soul into this world. He had come a month early, ready to tackle the world full throttle. I distinctly remember the feeling of his small little fingers wrapped around mine, so large and ghastly in comparison. I remember the touch of his soft skin and how piercing his sparkling eyes were when they opened in full bloom. He was like a small doll that fit perfectly in the palm of my hands. His full head of hair was thick, black and straight like mine; his tight Afro curls yet to come. But he had adopted his father’s distinct fingers and perfect ears.
I remember coming home from the hospital and just watching him for hours, or reading him books and singing to him. Just before he was born, I had started reading Alice in Wonderland to him in the womb. We would sit there for hours, curled up on the couch, continuing to follow her down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. I had always dreamed of being Alice as a child. I hoped he too sought out Wonderland in the farthest and most imaginative of places.
I could already tell the sort of kid he was going to be, even before he could talk. His smile lit up the darkest of places and his early cackle would fill my heart. And when he started his pre-talk, silence became a thing of the past, his never-ending babble rarely allowing room for silence to fall. And I’d watch him while he slept, smiling away, and I would wonder what his little mind was dreaming of.
He never slept much either, not during the day at least. Never wanted to miss out on anything. He would only sleep close to my chest, wrapped up in a baby sling, eyes shut. He would wake the minute I put him down. And so we would spend our days entwined like that.
I remember the day it went from the three of us to the two of us, too. I remember that just as clearly and vividly as the touch of his skin. My son was barely three months old. Only an unknowing baby, it was his old soul that carried me from that black hole. A smile or a touch at the most propitious moment was sometimes just enough to cross the line of another day.
In that moment, I couldn’t see much beyond the hour in front of me. I didn’t see how we would cope just the two of us. I was none the wiser in that darkness. I thought our life had just crumbled. But it had only just begun.
Much of my strength came directly from him.
It still does.
As he grew with each year, I knew he was always going to be that kid – a moody thinker, a sharp shooter unafraid to speak his mind, the clownish one who loves to make people laugh, the kid who climbs to rooftops and tells me to stop what I’m doing so I can go see the world with him, the deep creative who sees things differently, the energetic being who never stands still, the kid who loves life and the people in it, the one who pushes me and life to its limits and the kid that will always be my partner in crime, the one to say “take my hand and run fast.”
We had his fifth birthday party on Saturday with a mix of people who made up his life – his friends from four-year-old kinder last year, his friends he had known since birth, his cousins who were more like siblings and his new school friends who you can already envision the deep friendships he is going to have with them. And I watched him with them all and can already see the little threads he is weaving in this world. And it made my heart pump a little.
I can see his path.
And I can see our path. I can see us finding Wonderland together.
Five years on, we have done more than survive. Our house is filled with strength, creativity and big personality. And I have the kid to thank for that, the lighter of the flame.
Someone once told me he is my soul mate. I believe them.
And five years on, just the two of us, I can still sit and watch him for hours, still as madly in love with him as the day he came.