I was born in Juneau, Alaska, a rainforest named for a gold prospector. Among the perks of living there was having a glacier in our town. It was normal to me, the way that everything is normal when you’re a kid, like your sketchy Drunkle John or your mom’s nicknames for privates. Only as an adult did I realize that most kids aren’t within a ten minutes drive of a mountain of blue-grey ice.
The Mendenhall Glacier has been receding rapidly in recent years, to the point that you can visibly tell the difference. Bald, brown patches of mountains that were once covered with ice sandwich the space between the glacier and the lush green forests.
Last week, I read an article revealing that scientists are finding the remains of ancient forests where the ice is melting. Stumps and logs from trees dating back to 2,000 years ago are appearing, encased in a layer of gravel. When the ice expanded all those years ago, it sent out a crust of gravel before smothering the trees.
I remember walking the hiking trails near the glacier as a kid and a young adult. I stared up at the smooth walls of rock that were once covered in ice. But it was impossible to imagine, in the same way that it was once impossible to imagine that life really existed before my own birth, or that my grandparents were once young.
In the last week or so, something has shifted in my parenting. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten a break from the effing fours, as my son’s tantrums have (temporarily?) waned. Maybe it’s that the kids are finally at a stage where they sit at the table smooshing playdough for a good 15 minutes without intervention. Which means I get to breathe or check my email. Scrub some dishes or read a few pages.
Or maybe there was another strata of postpartum depression I didn’t realize was lingering, and it’s finally dissipating. Maybe I’m just finally striking a balance between self-care, childcare and feeding the other hungry parts of myself.
Whatever caused the shift, I’m enjoying my children on a deeper level. I’ve been more present. I put down my iPhone and look at them for long, long moments. I see them more clearly for the bright, complex constellations that they are: my son, intense and creative. My daughter, full of light.
I see how quickly time is passing: I see the relics of the babies they once were, and the bigger versions coiled just beneath the surface. As hard as it can be to be so needed right now, this era where they orbit so closely around me has an end point.
It will be sooner than I would like.
It doesn’t mean I Enjoy every single solitary moment as I so often hear mothers of older children chime. But I do understand the sentiment in a deeper way, a more visceral way.
Tomorrow might find me in the fetal position, smeared with my children’s tiny boogers and my own tears, wishing for the days when my life is entirely my own again. But just for right now, this time feels bittersweet. Like finding something ancient beneath a lost wall of ice.
We are done with wobbly-necked babies and breastfeeding. With pregnancies and purees. That layer is gone, shrugged off, grown over.
Beneath it, I sand off old parts of myself: the part that strings words together. The part that sometimes goes out after dark. The part that finds connections everywhere, bright gleaming webs. The part that was there all along, frozen, waiting.