The reason I like to write personal essays is because like a fine wine, they just get better with time.
Actually I don’t know anything about a fine wine. Let me use a better metaphor.
You know when you have an old container of cream cheese in the freezer? And you leave it there, because you kinda forget about it. And then, weeks later, you open it up and discover it has gone moldy.
But you don’t throw it out because you don’t have time, right at that second, to thoroughly clean it out. So you let it sit a bit longer. I mean, it’s already moldy. What’s the harm?
Maybe another week goes by.
And then you open it again and holy cow, has it gone moldy! Not just green and pink but furry, too! And that point you are kinda curious. Just how moldy will this get? So you close it up and put it back. Just to see.
Reading old personal essays is to me like finding the old container of cream cheese. Every time I reread them, I feel like I have found an unexpected surprise. And the feeling just grows with time. The further I get from the moment I was trying to capture, the more delight I find in opening it up and saying–Oh, yeah, that time. I remember that time!
The Dance was the first personal essay I published and today it was republished. It captured a feeling that I knew was fleeting but can still close my eyes and remember. It’s true. I don’t walk babies at night anymore. And even though every sleep deprived mother on the planet will want to punch for saying so, I DO miss those quiet, dark moments when it was just me and my baby and there was nothing to do but walk and rock and nurse and smell that little, peach-fuzz covered head.
Then your eyelids begin to droop. Your breathing becomes shallow, almost silent, and your head becomes heavy and begins to melt into my arm or my shoulder or my breast. Your arms become floppy and your legs rubbery. Sleep has almost enveloped you.
This is my favorite part.
I look down at your face, so calm. Any frustration or fear of the day has drained. Your skin is porcelain; your round, relaxed cheeks like peaches, and your little lips form a perfect triangle. Sometimes they quiver and the corners jerk into an unconscious smile that quickly plays across your face and disappears. Then you sigh in gratitude, in trust, in complete comfort.
I feel like crying. I flash forward to ten years from now, eight months from now, two weeks from now, even ten minutes from now when you will no longer need me to walk you, to comfort you. Soon you’ll be able to put yourself back to sleep, and later I will no longer be able to give you all the peace you need.