Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

March 26, 2001

Two plus one equals enough

Lucy is now seven months old.

Back when I measured her life in days and weeks, I couldn’t imagine we’d ever make it to this point. It’s not that I worried that the world was coming to an end, or that I’d misplace her along with many pairs of her very small socks. Rather, it was that I was living from minute to minute, and day to day.

You know what they say (whoever they are): “Take it one day at a time.” It’s supposed to be encouraging. Like, all you have to do is make it through one day, and you’re home free.

The thing is, people with newborns aren’t thinking about tomorrow, or any future more distant than the next diaper change. For all you know, this is the rest of your life. It sure feels that way. One day contains 1,440 minutes. And you feel every one tick by.

But, like the papery skin slipping off a pet chameleon, those days eventually do pass. And you find yourself the mother of a shiny, medium-sized baby. One with quick smiles, bright eyes and the incredibly endearing habit of holding her arms out to you every time you come anywhere near her.

Lucy has two bottom teeth now, sitting side by side like barnacles. She can sit up by herself, though she tips when she’s distracted. She is in love with the dog, and thinks the cats are pretty swell, too.

Her favorite food is peas, with chicken 'n' dumpling puree coming in second by a carrot. Her guilty pleasure is to drink from an adult’s water glass. Her favorite letter is B, if one can judge by the frequency with which she says Bah Bah Bah.

She bites everything from the phone to furniture legs. Her greatest innovation is “froggy voice,” the croaky roar she makes with the back of her throat. Her new laugh, “The Muttley,” has entertained people from New York to Alaska. It sounds like heavy breathing, but without all the sexy baggage.

I write these things because I have learned that today’s baby is not the same as yesterday’s, or last month’s, baby, even though she is the same baby. Already, I can feel her infancy slipping away. And I want to remember it.

Now that the bruising first few months have passed, I can imagine Lucy turning 1. I can picture her as a 2-year-old on a red tricycle. I’m ready for her to take painting classes at the art school down the street, and they don’t teach children younger than age 6. I know I’m going to miss the 7-month-old I have, but I already am crazy about the 7-year-old she will become.

The one thing I cannot conceive — and I mean that in every sense — is another child. It would kill me, I swear.

So, this is why I am especially stunned to realize that when I was Lucy’s age, my little brother Andy was on his way. And when my mother was the age that I am now, she already had four kids, and was working on the fifth.

It’s not that I’m ruling out the idea of ever having another baby. It’s just that I can’t yet imagine doing it again with a toddler hugging my shin (let alone one on each limb).

It’s like entering a pie-eating contest right after vacuuming up a Thanksgiving dinner. No matter how much you love pie, there’s only so much one person can take on a full stomach. I don’t even want to think about how parents of twins do it, although I’m going to light a mental candle for the ones I know. They’re heroes.

I do envy them one thing, though: They don’t have to make the choice whether to give their child a brother or sister. And, as impossible as it is to imagine doing this all over again, a part of me knows I just might. And I have four reasons for it.

The first is my older brother John. He and his wife, Kim, who looks curiously like me but is a much nicer person, live in Chicago, so we don’t get to see them as much as we want. When were little, I admired John so much I used to wear his underwear. (In my defense, I was only 3.) We fought plenty. But he was — and is — a good brother. In third grade, for example, I won a big spelling bee. I’ll never forget the moment Mom came to pick us up at school. Even though John had lost his grade’s bee, he grabbed my hand and stuck it in the air when he saw Mom’s car. He had the grace to celebrate my victory. (And I don’t see any irony in the fact that the word he spelled wrong was maudlin. It’s a nice story, for crying out loud.)

Andy is my younger brother, and the one I used to hug in preschool every morning when he was having his routine cry. (You might cry, too, if a fish tank fell on your head while you were playing on the bookshelf.) Like John, Andy is now a doctor. During a vacation from his very grueling job last year, he told me he was going to bring “a few rhododendrons” over to our country acres. He brought 50, and planted them all. And mine is not the only garden he has adopted.

Ann is reason No. 3. She’s the one who bakes all our birthday cakes. And she looks after Lucy on Saturday mornings so I have time to write, and so Adam has time to do chores around the house. She’s also the first of us to become a parent — she’s a step-mom to an incredible 9-year-old named Katy, whose father, Michael, is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He also makes a mean cup of coffee. Despite these fine acts, and her good choice of husband, Ann’s crowning achievement is the time she made coffee come out of John’s nose at dinner, just by saying, “Nar.” She’s that funny.

And then there is Susan, who is last only in birth order. I named her, because my parents had run out of energy for such things, and this makes me feel a special sort of accountability for her existence. Susan lives only a couple blocks from me, and has been an incredible support during these hard months. She’s the reason I can run six miles again, and the reason I can fit into most of my old pants. Her level head humbles me. During Seattle’s recent earthquake, Susan and Lucy were upstairs together. When the house started rocking, I headed for the nearest doorway, frantic for Lucy, though I knew running upstairs was the wrong thing to do. Susan had the presence of mind to call down during that long 40-second ride to let me know Lucy was OK. She turned a natural disaster into just another Wednesday.

But it doesn’t take anything as dramatic as an earthquake to remind me how much I love these guys. I think about it every day, especially now. Growing up, they taught me how to love other people more than I love myself. They taught me empathy. They taught me to care more about someone else’s successes and failures than I cared about my own.

When I think about it, I realize this is the kind of love you need to know to be a good parent. And so for this reason, and this reason alone, I think I might someday have a brother or sister for Lucy. I want her to know this kind of love, before she even knows how to ride a bicycle.

But not yet.

She’s about to crawl. And something tells me when that happens, I’m going to be taking it one day at a time — all over again.

March 19, 2001

Back in the saddle again

Not too long ago, I was nearing the end of a five-mile run when I realized something: I wasn’t tired. In fact, I thought, I can speed up a bit.

And so I did, marveling at my strength, my form and the incredible day it was turning out to be.

Not long after that, I heard a woman huffing hard behind me. Though I would rather the person passing me be a strapping young man, preferably with winged heels, I didn’t mind being beaten by a woman. Well, I didn’t mind much. And I figured this young goddess was lean and fit. A modern Atalanta. Probably a college athlete, preparing for an important competition. Good for her.

Then I heard a rapid little thwap-thwap accompanying the heavy breathing. Thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap, it went. Thwap-thwap.

Curious, I turned around to see the source of this strange noise. That was a mistake. I saw a pair of tiny dogs pulling not a college athlete, but a woman easily 10 years older than I am. The dogs’ little gnome faces looked like they were laughing at me, the bastards. And soon, they were over the horizon.

Thus ended my fantasy of being completely back in top shape. It was only a fantasy, after all. You don’t get in Baywatch form by only running and lifting weights a few times a week.

Doing more with Lucy has proved to be very tough. There are so many things to fold into the day: household chores, writing deadlines, doctor’s appointments, dog walks, grocery-store trips. And this does not begin to take into account all the extra invitations I get to do fun things because I’m no longer “working.”

Before Lucy, I could take care of the business of living whenever I wanted, which created the illusion of more time. (Really, it was just that I had more control.)

Life after Lucy, on the other hand, is a balancing act. There are the unscheduled inevitabilities that have to get taken care of right away — things like wet diapers, and heart-felt meltdowns when she’s really tired. And then there are the things I want to do, or need to do to preserve my sanity. If I don’t do them when I have a free five minutes, they’ll never get done.

Perpetual motion is the key, even if directed physical activity — like a nice, leisurely run — is a luxury.

Given that, I decided to be very happy I could power through a five-mile run. So what if I was slower than a pair of bedroom slippers on legs? I was running once again. I had taken on the challenge of pregnancy, and I survived.

Lots of women wonder what having a baby will do to their bodies. Though it varies from woman to woman, pregnancy will almost certainly never become a fad beauty treatment.

It can be the fast track to Dumpytown, what with all the puking, the stretch marks, the water retention and the good old-fashioned fat (euphemistically called “maternal reserves”). The few people who actually do look and feel good during pregnancy perpetuate it as the ultimate physical experience for women.

I will be polite and say they’re full of crackers. Being pregnant is really hard, even without complications like gestational diabetes or bed rest.

But before I had Lucy, I was counting on living the myth. And I rounded it out with some extra fantasies of the most vain nature.

For example, I read that nursing burned so much fat, many mothers actually emerged from the experience thinner than when they started. Because I knew I would be having children at some point in the near future, I let myself invest in some maternal reserves before actually conceiving. Lots of people prepare for childbirth by readying the nursery, or creating a will. I ate my way to the starting line. Those extra pounds would come right off, right?

The way I was planning it, my two-liter bottle abs would shrink into a six-pack within, oh, four weeks. What’s more, I was certain I would finally get that pair of sculpted arms I’d always wanted. I’d be carrying the baby around all day. What else could be the result? Linda Hamilton from The Terminator was my role model here. In T1, she was a little doughy. Just like me. In T2, after she had her baby, she was totally buff. (Never mind the fact she was also locked in an insane asylum and dodging a liquid metal robot bent on killing her. She had really, really great arms.)

What actually happened was that I was left with both maternal and paternal reserves. In addition to this, I had canine and feline reserves, lodged in my neck and stomach as though they had signed a long-term lease on the space. Because of this, I deeply regret my decision to wear a horizontally striped stretch top to a party the week after Lucy was born. The pictures will live on forever, and my stomach and arms are stretching those stripes so I look like I’m wearing a topographic map of the Rockies.

Six months and a few weeks later, I am finally able to wear an acceptable size of pants again. Note that I did not say my regular size. I am not there yet, and not certain that I ever will be. Evicting maternal reserves is harder than they say.

But I don’t really care. I have Lucy. I am back in shape. And I’ve learned a thing or two about what it means to have a baby.

A lot of people say it’s the ultimate physical experience for a woman. This is hooey, because it sends the message that once you’ve had a child, you’ve already done the best thing you can do with your body.

And that’s not really true. Yes, it’s a miracle that we can give birth. But the real miracle is the life that emerges, not the experience of being pregnant. If you’re lucky, like me, you get to experience it. But once you’ve conceived a child, it’s not a daily challenge to transform the cells into another human being. It just happens. It’s tiring, to be sure. And you have a responsibility to eat the right foods and avoid unhealthy things. Whether you like it or not, though, that baby is going to be born. You can’t skip a day of pregnancy like you can skip a workout.

And this is why there are lots of other physical experiences that can have just as much meaning as having a baby. They’re the experiences that require the courage and self-love to dream, and the discipline to make the right daily choices.

In this way, it’s amazing to be able to run a marathon. After my first one, I cried, and not because of the pain. When you experience something like this, your spirit feels bigger than what your body can contain. It is pure joy to have a body that does what you want it to do. The miracle is finding the discipline and strength to do it every day, or at least every chance you get. These are the moments that remind you you’re alive.

If there is a secret to living well, and to being the person you want to be, it is in realizing that you have power, and you have choices. It takes courage to do things that are difficult. It’s easy to find reasons why you can’t. But if you look at every moment as an opportunity, you’re halfway there.

One of my favorite quotes, by Goethe, is “Do not hurry; do not rest.”

And this pretty much sums up the way you balance having a child with having a life.

When you have a baby, you trade your nice, controlled life for one that is chaos and kisses. You can’t hurry, because babies have schedules of their own. You can’t rest, for the very same reason. If you’re ever going to be the person you dream of being, you learn to seize the moments you’re given. You don’t plan for the life you want to have. You live it, as best as you can.

It’s awfully hard. But it’s the most joyous misery there is.

March 12, 2001

The tooth hurts

I am a little obsessed with teeth. This is not just a recent thing. It predates Lucy, even.

Ever since I found out that Adam had to have every one of his permanent teeth removed to make room for the extra set that was coming in behind them, I have carried a small pellet of fear in my heart.

Add that to the fact that I teethed at four months and was a something of a biter — and suddenly, I had enough fodder to fuel a fair amount of worry.

Imagine the baby, I thought, who would be born with not one, but two, rows of teeth. Hucksters of yore would have sold tickets to see The Amazing Shark Baby, Live! (Today, I might have to settle for an appearance on America’s Scariest Dental Visits, which I believe, is scheduled to run on the Fox network next week.)

Anyway, as soon as Lucy’s four-month birthday rolled around, I started looking for signs of imminent teething. Drool, crying, frantic gumming – all of these were sure indications to me that Shark Baby was swimming my way: “Ba-dump. Baaa-dump. Ba-da-ba-da...”

In the two months since then, there has been a lot of drool, and a fair amount of crying, sometimes even at the same time. But these have been nothing compared to the gumming. Gumming has become Lucy’s day job. No matter what else she is doing – bathing, playing, holding my hand, reading, nursing – she finds a way to let her gums in on the fun.

Everything goes into her mouth for a good chomp. Books, magazines, her feet, her finger, and occasionally her thumb, not to mention remote controls, dog toys, the corners of her high chair. Everything.

As she is also learning to scoot and wriggle around on the floor, not unlike a potato bug suddenly exposed to daylight, she has even humped her way to such filthy things as cast-off shoes. I found her once trying to chomp the corner of my “walk the baby fat off” hiking shoe. There’s nothing quite like a dirty boot in your baby’s mouth to prove once and for all that you’re a terrible housekeeper.

But, as I’ll say to the judge, that’s not entirely my fault.

When you’re living in a two-bedroom condominium, and using your dining “nook” as a combination home-office and playroom, sundries are bound to pile up on the floor. And pile up they did: cloth diapers for toxic leaks, shiny plastic toys, rattles, books, beanie babies, orphaned socks, video tapes, coupons that I will never use, receipts that I meant to file. The list was endless. These things threatened to bury us in a time capsule of mostly well-intended consumerism, and for once, I am not exaggerating. Much, anyway.

The only bright side was that they had turned the condo into a human-sized Habitrail, and I was getting in very good shape meandering through them, with or without my baby-fat-burning shoes. I was logging about a mile a day between the bedroom and kitchen, mainly because I had to take so many detours around all the baby stuff.

Looking back on it, it is not surprising that Christmas was the last straw for the condo. We emerged from the holiday season with so many gifts for Lucy that one last wee hat set off the crap alarm, which bleated like a lamb until Adam and I made the decision to sell our condo and buy a house.

That took less than two weeks.

Normal people spend a lot more time on this process. But Adam and I belong to the Band-Aid Removal School of Life Events: best they should be dispensed with quickly. And within two more weeks, we were in the house. The greatest house in the world, as far as I am concerned. It’s a 1905 Craftsman with – and this makes my eyes sting – a kitchen large enough to house Lucy’s high chair, the dog bowls, the cat bowls, with enough room left over that Adam and I can both stand there watching the chaos of it all.

And it has been chaotic.

Two days after we moved in, Lucy and I caught colds. And two days after that, Lucy turned six months old. Far from enjoying a momentous, Martha Stewart event, we spent her birthday and the days surrounding it listening to Lucy shriek.

And not her usual “I’m talking with dolphins, Mommy” squeal. With that one, it’s clear she’s trying to communicate complex ideas. What they are, we do not know. But they are nuanced and shaded, and they rarely break glass.

Her six-month shriek, on the other hand, was something else. It said one thing: “I’m in pain.”

Adam and I thought she must have a horribly stuffy head. We could hear the snot rattling in her nose, and she wasn’t sleeping well at night at all. For me, the only bright side was that I could take the noise for hours on end, without considering child abandonment for even a millisecond.

Too bad I’m too much of a dope to have figured out what the problem was. Otherwise, I could have prevented the shriek in the first place. The irony is, Adam and I had been quick with the gum-numbing goo two months earlier, when we didn’t need it. But by the time she had an actual tooth coming in, we didn’t do a thing.

I guess I could say the distraction of having to put all our earthly possessions into small cardboard boxes, tape them shut, then cut them open and unpack them caused me to miss the fact that a small, diamond-sharp tooth was on its way.

The truth is that the novelty of teething had already worn off weeks before. I thought so much about it that I simply ran out of mental juice for this event. It was the developmental milestone that cried wolf, I guess, and by the time the signs had arrived, I had stopped looking for them.

So, it was a great surprise for me to stick my finger in Lucy’s mouth and feel something ridged and hard attached in there.

“By gum!” I exclaimed (more or less accurately), “it’s a tooth!”

It was just a tiny one, a speck of white, like rice for Barbie. But I had to tell everyone, or at least their answering machines, about it, I was so excited.

I never would have thought something so small and ordinary as a tooth could fling me into orbit. And I can’t believe I almost missed it.

That’s the thing about having a baby, though. It’s a chance to watch life open up before you, like a time-lapse film-strip of a flower going from notion to bud to blossom. You get that strange sensation of time moving quickly and slowly, all at once.

With your own baby, you get to feel these changes, and not just see them. You have to pay attention, though, and not just think about all the unfolded laundry and unpaid bills.

The threshold moments help you understand a little bit better what it means to be human, and to be alive. To touch life like this, to feel it bloom in front of you – this is the only kind of magic that is real.

March 05, 2001

Why I quit my job

It’s Thursday and I am supposed to be at work. But something happened as the date for my return to the office drew nearer: I realized there was no way I could be apart from Lucy all day long.

Perhaps I should have seen this coming. Growing up, I used to sleep in bed with all of my stuffed animals, because I was afraid some would get hurt feelings if they were banished to the floor. And once I got my dog, Misty, we went nearly everywhere together.

The first year I had her, I was a high school teacher, and I brought her to class. She would occasionally help herself to the delicious sandwiches in brown bags that sprouted like mushrooms in the hallways, which meant I was always shelling out lunch money to the students she robbed. But it was a good life, even if we were poor and Misty was fat.

Once I started working in less dog-friendly offices, I started dropping her off at my parents’ house every morning so that she would have quality day care. And of course, she joined Adam and me on our honeymoon. (Sorry, Adam.)

But by the time Lucy was born, I finally had a job I loved, and I was working with a group of people I respected. And Misty was a happy, well-adjusted dog who would only occasionally binge in the cat box. So, I figured this day-care thing could work. I would find an excellent caregiver for my human child, and instead of just dropping off Misty for day care, I’d deliver Lucy, too.

What I really wanted to do was find a nanny. That way, Lucy would have someone devoted to her needs all day long. It’s not that I think day cares are bad because children generally only get divided attention there. Any stay-at-home mom with more than one child faces that problem. And there are some really great day cares out there. But Lucy couldn’t even sit up on her own, and I didn’t want to imagine her stuck on the floor, in need of some attention, and having to wait even a second for it.

It’s one thing for her to have to wait for me, as she sometimes does when I’m putting clothes in the dryer or dishes in the dishwasher. (I can’t believe how many times a day I find myself standing in front of some appliance. I now count them among my closest confidantes.) Anyhow, it always feels worse to have someone else treat your child as you might. And not just because you have to pay them to do it. It’s like when you were a kid and you heard another kid say something mean about your brother: It’s one thing for you to say it, but a punch in the nose for someone else who does.

I started my nanny search on the Internet so that I wouldn’t have to have any scary human contact in the first stages of the hunt. That way, I could learn all I needed, without having to let anyone know I was a total naïve. Also, I didn’t want Lucy to hear. She doesn’t talk yet, but you never know what she understands and doesn’t. For all we know, babies play dumb because it takes time to form a perfect parental manipulation strategy. Once their plan is formed, they’re free to start talking. I’m pretty sure that’s what Lucy is doing all day. She’s already quite good at manipulating me, and that’s even without saying “Mama,” “need” or “sparkly tube top.”

Anyway, the nanny-search sites proved to be a fine place to start. While I am sure there are many excellent caregivers there, I managed to find all the flakes immediately. My favorite was the one who said she “didn’t believe in discipline, only positive redirection of negative inclinations.” The sentiment is nice, of course, and something I’m mostly on board with, but I still didn’t like the sound of someone clapping her incense-scented hands together and saying, “Lucy, I applaud your interest in that hot stove. But might I interest you in something a little cooler? The refrigerator, perhaps?”

Also, it’s shocking how many of these nannies are only 18 or 19 years old. I am far enough from that age to think it’s very young, and near enough to remember the things I did at that age. And that’s what has me fully freaked out by the prospect of letting someone like I was near my child. When I was 19, it was pretty much all the effort I could muster to wash my jeans once every five wearings, and my sheets once a quarter. Making my bed was something I did to find the nickels to trade for the quarters that would help me afford the Laundromat. For food, I ate curly fries, coffee and the occasional bagel. I know. It’s gross. I’m disgusting. But I was known as the clean freak in my dorm because I showered daily. So you see the influence I was under.

It is obviously unfair to judge all 19-year-olds by my own past — many women that age are excellent mothers themselves — but I just couldn’t see myself handing Lucy over to someone with fry breath and foul jeans, even if those things are only in my imagination. So I called my mom, who works four days a week as an elementary school nurse. What better person, I thought, to beg for support than someone who was not only sanitary, but would know what to do for a scraped knee or case of cooties? And what’s more, she loves Lucy.

Mom was willing to take care of Lucy on her day off. I couldn’t think of anything better than this, except for staying home myself to take care of baby. But I put that thought out of my head, because I felt a duty to return to work — my team was counting on me, I liked my job, and we needed the money to straighten Lucy’s teeth, and maybe send her to college. (If you knew about the sad but exciting history of Adam’s teeth, you would know why we’re already thinking about dental work, before she even has any chompers of her own.)

My boss was willing to let me work part time — say, three days a week, and one of those from home. This meant I had to find someone to care for Lucy only one day per week. For that one day, I thought, I could trust her to another pair of hands.

And so every morning when I woke up, I told myself, “Today will be the day you find a nanny.” But I kept finding reasons that made this task impossible. Lucy’s feet needed kissing. She was hungry, and needed to nurse. Her cheeks needed a little baby lotion, because they kept getting chapped on our walks. Or, I had something I needed to write, either a column for Encarta, or another entry for this journal of Lucy’s first year.

Days, then weeks, went by, and Lucy had no nanny. And, as I usually do when there is a task I keep putting off, I stopped to think for a minute about what was really going on. That minute turned into hours, and then days, while I thought about what I had been doing with my life, and how it compared to the life I thought I would have when I was small.

Back then, I had big dreams. I would be a writer, I thought. And write I did — little-girl short stories that were long on humor but short on form. As I grew up, I dreamed of chuffing down America’s highways in a pickup, with my dog by my side. We’d devour the red painted skies, beaten copper lakes and bristling evergreens framed by the mouth of our windshield. The sights would sustain us, because there was no way we’d make any money doing this.

My wise and well-meaning parents advised me to have something to fall back on, just in case. And, because I am more or less a good daughter who didn’t think she deserved any special luck anyway, I did just that. From the Monday after I got my college diploma to just a few weeks ago, I had been a devoted working woman. I taught, I worked at a newspaper, I built Web sites, then managed teams that did this, and then I became the editor of Considering that I was falling back, I was doing a pretty good job of landing in higher and softer places each time.

And I loved the journey. No, I was not doing what I always set out to do. But life isn’t about doing what you thought you’d be doing, and getting what you thought you’d get.

Or is it?

To be honest, I never saw myself wearing elbow-length poop gloves while hunched over a grinning, gummy baby who is thrilled with the trumpeting flurry that has come out of her peach-shaped bottom. And I never thought I would find that sort of thing to be hilarious. Or that I would love that little lump of wiggly, messy flesh so much.

Sometimes, though, life hands you just the lesson you needed. If I really wanted to be a writer, then that’s what I should have spent my time doing — not worrying about failure, and ensuring it completely by building a career doing other things.

That’s one of the funny things about having a child. Suddenly, and for the rest of your life, you’re out of the kind of time it takes to follow a dream with your body and your soul. There is no packing up the pickup truck and hitting the highways with a Snapple and a peanut butter sandwich.

That’s because there is a baby who needs you. A baby who will become a child who will become a teen-ager who will become an adult and fly off on her own. But by then, many years will have separated you from the dream you started out with — so many that it’s possible there are not enough years left to get back to that sacred, trembling place where it started. And even if you could try, the walls of habit may have grown too high. You might not survive an attempt on them. You might never find solid ground again.

When you see that kind of a future, you ask yourself what you would tell your child if she was pondering what to do in this situation, whether to go back to work and be safe — or to follow her heart, and try to find a way to blend the old dream of being a writer with the new one of raising a happy child.

And then the answer gets so easy. Your heart, silly. You follow your heart.

So that is what I have done. I will not have as much money as I would have had I continued to work at a regular job, though I am extremely lucky to have the work that I have, and a husband who believes in me enough to let me take a chance.

And I do not have as much time to write as I would have had before Lucy came along, although I do manage to find the time. Lucy owns the better part of my days and my nights and she deserves every minute.

Often, the best I can do is peck one-handed while I hold her in the crook of my other arm. While the quiet click of hobbled typing delights her, I find myself thrilled by the beating of her heart, which I can feel with my free hand.

It’s a tiny knock-knock, like an acorn bouncing across a stone courtyard, counting out seconds, symbolizing life, and reminding me that whatever comes, I’m finally traveling the right path.