Hadley and I were strolling through the park yesterday when an old couple--they were probably in their late 70s--walked toward us on the path. As we passed one another, they slowed and smiled down into the stroller at Hadley and then up at me--deep, honest smiles of happiness. At that moment, for some mysterious reason, I looked at the old lady and thought, "One day, Hadley will be an old woman."
Then immediately I thought, "Please, God, may that be true. May Hadley grow to be an old woman." One day, I pray that she strolls in the park with her old-man husband, and she sees a mom and baby, and she smiles at them--a smile that says, "Life has been good. Different than I expected, but good. You have a lot ahead of you, little one. Adventures and love, heartbreak and misdirection, thrills like you can't imagine and occasional fear. But I smile at you because I trust that the goodness and blessings will outweigh the bad." That's what I imagine our old-lady friend wanted to say to us with her smile.
So I smiled back. And I tried to tell her with my smile, "We are happy, we three, in our little house. This baby you see? She's joy like I've never known. You see that sparkle in her eyes? It's real. She's curious and funny--and a touch mischievous. I am doing my best every day to make sure that she ends up a happy old lady, walking in the park."
Maybe it's weird to think of a baby as an eventual old woman, but I've been rather enjoying imaging Hadley's life, thinking of all the things she will have seen and felt and experienced by that time. I don't think it's entirely fair to think of a baby as just a baby; she is an entire human being, and I am not a mom who wishes she would stay small forever. Oh, I love her baby self, her tiny hands and delicious baby smell, her funny faces and amazing discoveries (like how to hide toys under the couch). I relish the way she snuggles early in the morning, or how she says "ooh, ooh" like a little hoot owl. I record them here and in my journal and in her baby book, for fear of forgetting these little things that are wholly her own, tiny revelations of who she is.
But one day, when she is an old woman (May it be so!), she will still be Hadley. She will still have a sparkle in her eye. She will be delicate in different ways; she will still, I expect, be curious and expressive and funny. Maybe she will delight in her grandchildren. Maybe she will live in Provence and grow lavender in her yard. Maybe she will be a retired Air Force pilot.
I wish I could know her then, when she's an old woman. I don't mean to be morose--'cause I don't feel morose about it at all. It's how life goes. But I bet she will be a spunky lady, lots of fun. Maybe she will read this and remember how her mama used to blather on and on in her blog. And she will smile at the memory of blogs--those old, archaic things that mamas used to use to tell the world about their babies.
If that is true, old-lady Hadley, if you are reading this one day, then listen to your mama right now: Go to the park and smile at a new mama with her baby. She will love it. And if she asks, you tell her that once, a long time ago, your mama strolled in the park with you--and knew joy like she'd never known before.