Monday, July 25, 2016

Making new baby memories

Last week, Dave and I did something that was fun, fattening and healing: We took Ben to the same place we'd visited the summer when Max was a baby.

Max and Sabrina were away at camp, so we had Ben to ourselves. I'd planned a trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Thirteen summers ago (!!!), a colleague had kindly loaned us her home in the area. Some parts of Max's babyhood are a blur but I vividly recall that vacation. Not so much what we did, but how Dave and I felt.

Max was eight months old. He was smiley and sweet and not yet sitting up or doing much in the way of motor skills. Dave and I were besides ourselves with anxiety. We tried so hard to be happy that vacation and to enjoy Max, away from all the doctor visits and therapies and endless conversations about his delays. We wanted to be like any parents on a getaway with a baby.

We walked Max around Stockbridge and Lenox, visited the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Botanical Gardens. Max's vision was still righting itself after the stroke and he wasn't taking in much of his surroundings. I dangled him over flowers, hoping that they might catch his eye.

One night, we headed to Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It's an outdoor venue with a hall and shed for concerts and a glorious lawn where people picnic and listen to the music. My parents had introduced me to Tanglewood, and I was excited to take Max. It's amazing to lie there in the dark and listen to the music.

I carried Max around in a Baby Bjorn at Tanglewood. "You need to feed that baby more!" a man joked, because Max was quite the chubster. Oh, if only he knew, I thought. Feeding Max was a challenge. He had oral-motor issues, and spit out a lot of what we spooned in; we traveled with rolls of paper towels.

There were other parents picnicking with babies at Tanglewood. I remember watching those families and feeling sad that try as we might, we couldn't be as carefree.

So there we were in the Berkshires with Ben. The towns had changed—there were more fancy restaurants and coffee shops—but still had the same charm. Dave and I had changed a lot, too. We were no longer those depressed, worried parents. We contentedly wheeled Ben up and down streets, visited the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Botanical Gardens where a sheep baaa-ed at Ben and made him cry. We ate a lot of great food, including ice-cream for breakfast at SoCo in Great Barrington. At the Haven cafĂ© in Lenox, a couple with a tot approached us and asked about stuff to do with a baby. It gave me a flash of pleasure. Because now, we were that carefree couple with a baby.

Late one afternoon, we bought a picnic dinner at the supermarket and headed to Tanglewood for  some Mozart Magic Flute and Debussy. We settled onto our blanket and nibbled on cheese. I watched Ben rock back and forth on his hands and knees, on the verge of crawling. I gave him bits of fruit. People around us smiled at him.

"I don't think we enjoyed Sabrina as a baby as much as we could have because we were so worried about Max," Dave said, and it was true.

We were savoring the parenthood we'd never had.

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