Our due date is exactly two months from today.
When I left my job at the end of June, the six months between then and the due date seemed like an eternity. Now, two months seems like it will fly by. I’ve had a funny relationship with time the past few years. In a way it seemed to be frozen—nothing changing, everything stuck in place with my job growing increasingly unsatisfying, trying to start a family and failing month after month—while simultaneously moving too quickly. We lost our first pregnancy and I could barely believe it when it was a year from the loss; when this baby is born it will be just a month shy of two years. Had that first child lived, this one would be a younger sibling and I’d be the mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old as well as a newborn.
It does not seem like it’s been so long.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to Michigan for my ten-year-college reunion. Walking onto campus I had the same feeling that time had both gone in a flash and stopped. It looked nearly the same as ever, that Midwestern liberal-arts small town college style of red brick buildings clustered around a grassy quad unchanged over the past decade.
When I stepped through the doors of the chapel, where most of my friends were gathering for alumni band rehearsal, I caught a whiff of the same faint sulfur wafting from the women’s restroom. We went downtown after their halftime show to the same old local bar as always, and they still made their Cherry Cokes with grenadine and had the same puffy twisted breadsticks we’d once affectionately (and wildly inappropriately) dubbed “fetus limbs.”
It does not seem like it’s been so long since college, either.
I stayed with my parents for a few days before going to homecoming. One of my aunts had given my mother some pictures of her and my father from before I was born; my mother's face there, a few years younger than I am now, smiled out at me and I wondered how long ago that seemed to her. Had the time had gone faster and faster, had things seemed to slow and sputter at times? Did it stop and start as it's done for me?
My parents’ house rarely changes, and when I’m there I dream about high school exams, and I wake up at six thinking I need to get up and shower quickly before my brother needs to get into the bathroom we share, before I realize my brother's states away and I no longer need to worry about naming all the bones in the skull for Mr. Anderson's anatomy final.
That’s even longer ago, and it still doesn’t seem that long.
When it comes time for the twenty-year-reunion, a decade from now, I will, assuming all goes well, be the mother of a nine-year-old. We might go together and I'll show my child the dorms I lived in, where my mailbox was in the student center, those unfortunately-named breadsticks. We’ll perhaps go see the grandparents before or after, and I’ll dig out the pictures of me in college and before, me as a toddler climbing up the outside of the stairs in my parents’ first house in Ohio or as a fourth-grader hanging upside down from the monkey bars with my hair so long it nearly touched the ground. I know how unimaginable it will be that Mom could have ever been so young; I felt the same way looking at pictures of my own mother as a child, back when I was one.
I wonder how long ago it will seem to that nine-almost-ten-year-old. And I wonder if I will still be thinking of that nine-year-old’s older brother who never was, who would have celebrated his twelfth birthday that past July, who might have inherited the grin I love seeing on his father or the green eyes my siblings and I all share with our own mother, who might have come close enough to being a teenager to sigh and scoff and roll his eyes at his mother’s nostalgia. I wonder if that February night in the emergency room nearly two years ago that brought all those might-have-beens to a crashing, crushing halt will seem distant and far away in another two or ten years, or if it will be like walking back onto my college campus and feeling like time has stopped.
I think, perhaps, it will not seem like it’s been so long.