By any meaningful measure, most of my years have been pretty damn good: healthy, blessed with a loving husband, a beautiful child, loyal friends, and sweet dogs.
But 38 was golden. I had a wonderful job writing a weekly newspaper column, in which I had the freedom to take on virtually any subject. Constantly coming up with something intelligent, original, and/or amusing turned out to be a spiritual challenge of sorts. Because I was always prowling for the next topic, I couldn’t sleepwalk through my days. There was a potential column in everything that crossed my path: headlines, the meals I cooked, TV ads.
The timing for this couldn’t have been better, because my daughter, Emilia, was three years old. I knew she was going to be my one and only child, so my mantra and modus operandi was “Be here now.” I woke up every morning with the knowledge that everything I did had meaning, down to the smallest details of breakfast, bath time, and toe kisses.
Emilia was already her own person. She had definite opinions about what she wanted to wear to preschool, and she brought home funny stories about the other kids. Her orbit was expanding; she changed every week. But I was still her alpha and omega.
She loved her father dearly. Jim would sit patiently as she attempted to make pigtails in his very short hair, and his Donald Duck impersonation was her favorite entertainment, eliciting bright bubbles of laughter. Even so, I was The Mother. When Emilia climbed onto my lap for a bedtime story and snuggle, I knew that she was in Eden—a safe, warm, unconditionally loving place.
But I also knew that my superpowers were on the wane. I think Emilia knew it, too. Her growing arms and legs didn’t fold neatly into the circle of my arms the way they had when she was eight months old or even when she was two. It took longer to settle in, to find a balance, and we had to hold on to each other more tightly. But finally it was perfect.
I cherished those moments even more because I could see that they wouldn’t last.
Anita Diamant, 59, is the author of Day After Night and The Red Tent. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.