There was no time to dwell on the matter. I'd hardly had a chance to stand still all morning. My arm compulsively hit snooze on my alarm at 5:40 AM, but my mind was dragged to consciousness as I remembered that I would have to leave early to see Victoria off for the first day of her last year of high school.
I remember the first day of my own senior year so clearly. For the first time in four summers, I hadn't taken a class to get ahead during the school year. Instead, I'd chosen to stay home for the summer to take care of a then-3 month old Victoria. My duties included waking every morning when she woke, tending to her while my mom got ready for work and all throughout the day, maintaining the schedule my parents had developed for her, and presenting a well-adjusted baby for the whole family to enjoy in the evenings. When it came time to select a daycare provider in anticipation of the start of the school year, I went to every interview with my parents. My mom suggested that Victoria start part time during the last two weeks of the summer, to get her and I used to the separation.
"No, please. I only have two more weeks with her. Just let her stay." My mom agreed, and so the first day of my senior year would also be Victoria's first day of "stranger" daycare. She was being bathed at the sink when I left. As I told her good-bye my eyes began to water. "I can't believe you're sending her off to some stranger that she hasn't even spent any time with, and you're going to leave her there all day." During this, her fourth go-around at raising a child, the process had become just a part of life for my mom, but I struggled to let go of that little girl, the first baby I'd bonded to so closely.
Fast forward to the days Eden and Gabriel were born. The earth didn't move. I didn't feel a change within me, or overcome with a love that I'd never known. I'd first learned how deeply love can run when Victoria came around.
I burst through the living room door, Eden confused in my arms, my face already streaked with tears.
"Did I make it?" The 5'10" teenage girl that I'd once held and cared for as a 3 month old baby stood for inspection before our mother, making wardrobe adjustments, her backpack already strapped to her. There was laughter at my unusually open display of emotion before I found myself sandwhiched in a hug between my "baby" sister, and my own baby girl.
Even as a high school student, I knew this time flies by. That's what led to my decision to stay home with her that summer, and the professionally challenging choice to take an extra 6 weeks off for maternity leave when Eden was born. It's only a matter of time before Eden is stepping out of the front door to join the other students at the bus stop, and not long after that, she'll be a senior in high school. The boys, who already smile at her almost involuntarily, charmed by the pretty baby, will be calling her for dates before very long. One day I'll see her standing at the top of the staircase, dressed for her senior prom, just as I envisioned the day we first set foot in what would become our home. And I know that in that time Gabriel will always be missing, from the moments that I'll never have with him to the moments with Eden that he won't be there to witness. He won't go to the senior prom; he won't be there to hassle Eden's date as he waits for her to get ready for hers. They'll never walk out to that bus stop together.
There's a space between each of these moments that will always bear Gabriel's absence, though the moments are so full these days with the joy that my little girl brings. Today she's just my little girl, 15 months old, learning in leaps and bounds, unaware that the days are fleeting and that not one of them is promised to us. And here I am, knowledgeable of how swiftly the days can turn into months that turn into years, all of which can be taken from us instantly. I'll blink, and Victoria's graduation day will be here. I can't slow down time, but I can enjoy the space in between.