Wednesday, December 2, 2009


We were three of us at the start. We rang in the New Year with home-made hats. A brand new tiny baby boy (who was not, actually, all that small.) My sister had just adopted two daughters - six and eight, from Khazakstan. We were in a loft with painted harlequin concrete floors, giant drafty windows, and a cat that wouldn't come down from the overhead pipes.

We left the nineties, the loft, the extended family. We moved to New York. We added a nanny and new jobs. Graduate school. Towers fell. Another baby came. Taxis were hailed, umbrellas were spun inside-out in lower Manhattan wind-tunnels. I counted rats and listened to impossibly clear music with the stunning acoustics of subway stations. I learned something of bonuses, and something of crawling on my hands and knees for one more quarter for laundry loads.

We moved to Florida. We had another, decidedly final, baby. We were sand and salt and sparkly things. The Baby Bjorn, jog stroller, crib, and Avent bottles were dusted off and then retired. Hurricanes came. We lived out our thirties and returned to Georgia to each turn, implausibly and prematurely, forty.

This decade, we added cable and iPods and laptops and cell phones. We started carless and rode cabs, subways, trains, planes, buses, boats. We visited islands at either end of the decade - in the Caribbean at the start, British isles toward the end. We lived in three states, four moves. We went from the potential of family to a Family. With suppertime and homework and school dress codes and "go team" and "go outside!" and "go to your room."

Babies spit up sat up and stood up and learned to walk and then ran and talked learned to read and told jokes and did multiplication tables and wrote reports and begged for more time on their DS games. They cry less, they shout more. They laugh and they love and they try to believe in Elves and Santa and tooth faeries.

I attended three funerals and two births. I gave many, many baby gifts - and know dozens and dozens of fully-formed humans that didn't exist in 1999.

We watched the young senator on TV. I said "that is the next president." He said, with the authority and certainty that I know and love, "no way. Too green. Too black. We aren't ready. He isn't ready." And four years later - he was, he is. And we don't yet know what the reach of that is - but I am heartened by the fact that my children find it not a bit strange.

We are still fighting the same war. We've noticed the change in the weather, and we are talking about organic and local and reducing carbon footprints. We are paying down credit cards and know no one still getting real-estate rich.

We are defined by what we lost - in resources, in finances, in faith, in lives - and by what we have gained - in politicians, and expanded worldviews and tolerance and lives. We are prepared, really, for nothing. And we pray, futilely, that those unpredictable events and impacts will be soft and swift and enjoyable. That we will be spared tragedies, personal and global. That we will be kind, and generous, and peace-loving and patient and considerate.

For us, this last decade was about moving and changing and adapting and defining.

When this decade ends, Sebastian will no longer be a teenager. Patrick will be learning to drive. Annabeth will be in the middle of the college application process. We will be in our fifties.

A decade is a really long time. And, as observed by everyone who has lived through more than three of them, they pass at an unfathomably fast clip.

From here, we have no idea what that will look like. But we know - the two of us, the five of us - more than any other decade before - who we are doing it all for. We know that much.