Growing up, I yearned for what a small house with a green lawn and a white picket fence represented. I yearned for parents who cherished each other, and who cherished me. I yearned for what I had read about in books and what I had seen on TV and what I had overheard from classmates: laughter at the dinner table, kisses at bedtime, surprise love notes at the bottom of a brown-bag lunch.
After I married Danith, he planted cherry trees for me because I’d always wanted to pick those plump dark red berries (I have yet to do so because the birds and squirrels get to them before I can). He planted daisies because they were my favorite flowers as a child and hydrangeas because they became my favorite flowers as an adult. He planted a peach tree because, why not? He had attempted to grow peanut plants for me one summer, but the chipmunks dug up the nuts before they could even germinate. As an adult, I laughed at dinner, was kissed each night before the lights went out, and was spoken love words to. I realized how fortunate my life was, and I was grateful to be living such a life. Still, something was missing. I don’t think I was asking for more, for I knew I had been doled my fair share of luck already. I was not searching for something physical, such as a child, to fulfill that missing piece. What I needed was intangible. What was the purpose of the house with a green lawn and a white picket fence, if we were living only to die one day?
This month, two years ago, I was pregnant with Daffy. That month was the apex of the pregnancy. That summer with her was the apex of my life. At the beginning of the pregnancy, I remained in close contact with our doctor, needing from him reassurance that the symptoms and lack of symptoms were as expected. Danith and I spoke about Daffy to only a few friends. We cautioned ourselves with reminders that we could still lose her. When I reached 13.3 weeks with Daffy, though, I let down all guards. I blew away all worries. We had finally reached that elusive second trimester. I brushed off the past as though it were an old skin I was shedding. My confidence renewed me and equipped me with the superpower of invincible — I even proposed to my OB that I don’t get any more ultrasounds. I’m going to be fine, I informed him.
Every day with Daffy, Danith and I felt as though we were at summer camp, eating an ice cream bar each afternoon and sitting around a bonfire each night. We were teenagers with no worries. No concerns. Just the sun kissing our bare arms and legs. He painted (and repainted when I changed my mind about the colors) the walls of Daffy’s room. We never failed to discover reasons to explore the undergrowth in her nursery. Some nights we even ate and camped there. We allowed ourselves to run barefoot and to dream wildly and to laugh uncontrollably in her space. We lay on the cool night grass of her carpet and gazed up at the stars on her ceiling, our fingers intertwined with one another. We let the chuckles drip down our mouths with nothing but our hands to wipe them clean. Once we grew tired with our imagination we sat with our sweaty backs against her wall and licked our fingers. Then, we got up to resume play. Our summer would never end.
Separate from Danith, I flew during those months. With my daughter safe in my belly, where she and I shared one body, I soared. I had never felt more whole, more beautiful, or more defined. I was ethereal, glowing with soft light, and floating. The wind guided me from one cloud to the next. My hair trailed down my back in waves. I was wrapped in white muslin, the fabric covering me and revealing me all at once. My heart grew fuller, and I was lifted higher. As my belly continued to swell and ripen, I glowed only more brightly. I understood, finally, the purpose of my being. It all makes sense now, I remember whispering. My daughter who has yet to see the world is explaining the world to me.
That summer ended. Like many adults, though, I don’t wipe it from my life. Instead, when I sit alone with only the embers from the desk lamp and the crying of the cicadas down in the brushes, I return there for the memories. In that summer, it was my time of physical transformation, of learning how to love and frolic unabashedly, and of discovering life.