He’s turning four tomorrow, our tender tough middle son.
Four is such a small, soft birthday. He will not remember it. I may not either. Already I squint into time’s rearview mirror, unable to remember the toddler that he was, the baby, the newborn.
All of them escape me.
I cannot decide whether this is memory’s failure or parenting’s gift. All I can see is the child in front of me, as he stands today.
I want desperately to know the person he will become, the teenager, the young adult, the man. I want life to guarantee me that I will be there for it all. I crave this certainty with a mother’s ferocious heart.
And yet I cannot know this. Time makes no promises. So I celebrate each year’s passing, lighting another candle on his cake, gleaming under his gap-toothed grin. I promise to delight with him each August as he turns another year older, unfurling another chubby finger to inform the world of his whole age.
. . .
Is time a betrayal or a blessing? Perhaps it is both. It rushes past us, dragging us into the shaky future when we would rather stay stubborn in the sturdy present.
And yet time’s passing makes every present moment possible. It is the only way we have now.
Faith speaks of time as a blessing or a curse, depending on the age and stage and situation. Time is a gift, a burden, a thief, a savior.
Theology has a lovely turn of phrase, “the fullness of time.” Paul calls it the moment of Christ’s coming. I wonder about chronos-turned-kairos, this eternal embracing of time where we live and move and have our being.
I feel the weight of this fullness on every eve: the night before a day heavy with memory and meaning, whether joy or sorrow. I find that I write quite often in these moments, on the eve of becoming, on the cusp of change. It is a vigil of anticipation. Because I am not a journalist chronicling what happens; I am a wonderer searching the sky, wanting a wider view.
So I feel the fullness of time tonight on the eve. The past meeting the future in the present, like a cresting wave ready to crash.
Except that it is all captured for an eternal instant in the life of God.
. . .
His birth day was a rushing tumble: a sudden breaking of water, a frightening fast labor, a powerful push to delivery beyond what I thought possible. Euphoria after his arrival hit me like a runner’s high. He was healthy and huge and here.
He has been the child of his birth: fast and furious, full of spitfire and joy. Every round of our daily wrestling strengthens my love for his steely spunk. His temper is my own heart.
And it will serve him well, second son and middle child as he is. A fiestier way in the world is what he needed. Even at four I see this already.
Except that he is not yet four. Still one sleep ahead of him. Still on the eve in the fullness of time.
I want to pray him into another year of health and growth and every good thing a mother wants for her child. I cannot guarantee any promise of time, but I can pray. And perhaps the best prayers are the most ordinary.
We speak the same words before every meal – bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts. But I forget that they are a perfect prayer for every eve, too.
Which we are about to receive. From thy bounty.
Already, almost, about to receive. Always perched on the edge of God’s fullness of time.
May it always be for you, sweet child. May you always know you are the gift I receive.