I knew the moment I sat down that I had made a mistake. Throughout the day I had gone from one task to another without much thought or hesitation, so I hadn't even begun to calculate my "fatigue" level against my "tasks left to accomplish" ratio when I absently plopped down in an armchair by the fire.
The cake - now in the oven - would be safe for at least 30 minutes.
Almost immediately I felt my eyelids get heavy. They seemed heavier still with every effort to fight sleep.
It probably didn't help that I had grabbed a blanket from the couch and had curled up in the chair, a warm beverage cooling on a table, sadly, beyond a comfortable reach.
I could barely keep my eyes open now, so I stopped trying. Maybe I'll just sleep a bit, I reasoned, as the din of homework completion and meal preparations clanged against one another in perfect disharmony before fading in a new picture that has been dancing around in my sub-conscience, just waiting for these soul curtains to drop.
A few minutes of rest, that's all I need ...
A few minutes ...
Ah ... there she is.
Born during a snowstorm, a week from Christmas. All Six pounds, two ounces of her. Already trying to stand up.
The nursing staff will share the offerings we didn't get a chance to schlep to the cookie exchange: six dozen chocolate drizzled shortbreads.
The minutes seem suspended in slow motion as the hours tick by.
The winter turns into a spiral of springs and summers before fall makes its way toward winter again. I can't tell you whether I bought stamps last week or the week before, but I remember the faces of the maternity nurses in crisp detail.
Their smiles. Always their smiles ... even when I couldn't find mine.
These things rarely go as planned. You know this, but you don't really understand. Not until you experience this strange world.
A door opens, and a person arrives. A baby cries. The La-la-la sound of hunger. Someone has to tell you what it means.
One only gains fluency in this neonatal language through immersion.
In only a year or two, I will have adapted enough to translate for strangers.
It is a living language, after all.
So many times I have gotten it wrong.
Up. Down. No. Yes. Faster. Slower. Go. Stop.
How many times have I reached out my arms? How many times has she pushed them away? Too many to count, starting with an emphatic: "My do it!"
How many times had I not reached out? She can tell you; she's keeping track: "You're never on my side! You don't understand anything."
She's wrong ... but she's also right.
In the place of understanding, I count to ten: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you ... I love you.
Add one for every year after.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
Thirteen. Our lucky number. Or so we hope.
Do you hear that buzz? Hit snooze. Hit snooze!
But it's too late.
The cake is done. The birthday girl taking it out of the oven herself.
It's not a dream. The edges are too sharp. The lights - all LED and compact fluorescent - blur nothing.
I am wide awake now, but I still can't shuffle this feeling into chronological order. It just doesn't make sense.
She wasn't born yesterday. It just seems that way.