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‘You were only a baby. You couldn’t possibly understand.’

Midway through one of the songs we used to love when they were babies, I realized I was crying, and so was my daughter
Little feet, big feelings.  

Photo by Avi Katz
Little feet, big feelings. Photo by Avi Katz

My daughter was 18 months and 25 days old when my son was born.

And actually she was the first person besides me to know about him.

She was eight months old, and I was pushing her up Charnock Road in her little pink stroller and she was cooing and babbling at the sky as one does, and I realised my heart was racing and I was dizzy and I needed to pee, and I wanted to drink three gallons of water and I wanted to puke and I was starving and everything smelled including COLORS, and I said “Oh shit, you gotta be kidding me,” and we walked another block to Rite Aid, and I bought a pregnancy test.

I held her on my lap while I peed on the stick, and when that second line appeared, I hugged her tight and said “you’re going to have a little brother.”

(I don’t know how I knew he was a boy.)

She looked at me and bopped my nose and said “Meh!”

My belly grew slowly — although it was also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of thing, because time wobbles, and everything changes when you aren’t looking.

She would put her hand on his foot when he kicked.

It made her laugh.

Little feet, big feelings.
Photo by Avi Katz

And once SHE kicked me hard right there in the baby. It was September. Six months in. She was only just over a year then – with little feet and big feelings.

She had been to all the prenatal appointments: She would clap her hands when the doctor put the doppler on my big old moon belly and we heard the sound of galloping horses. We brought her to see him on the 4D ultrasound when I was halfway to the finish line — but she fell asleep midway through, while he somersaulted on the screen.

She was slow to speak. She made the right animal sounds, and she said “Mama,” and “Abba,” and she chatted with her Elmo doll and her stuffed bears and they seemed to grok her, but she didn’t have many real words, until the rainy afternoon we came home from the hospital less than a day after he was born, and she sat up from her nap, her hair like petuna petals, and said “BABY!”

She was still so little – in diapers, still on the breast, she couldn’t fall asleep without me — that’s why I hauled ass out of bed within an hour after giving birth and after the nurses gave me my chocolate chip cookie so I could get home with my new baby to my bigger baby.

We spent our afternoons on the couch the rest of that winter — My mother-in-law helped take care of us… She would cut up watermelon and spritz it with lemon. She made soups — lentil, yam… She baked cakes, and taught me how to make brisket. She did all the things for me my mother would have done if she were still alive.

And we sat there a lot, my little girl who suddenly seemed so big but really wasn’t and was a baby, still, and the really little baby on my lap who slept all the time with his mouth on me, and the afternoons passed.

I still hadn’t figured how to leave the house with both of them without it being a major operation with two diaper bags and a double stroller and fifteen stuffed animals and a first aid kit and a partridge in a pear tree — because even with two kids, I was still a new mom.

I was bored out of my mind, too – I measured time in TV reruns and trips to Coffee Bean, and a  good day was when the kids napped at the same time, and I could nap, too.

Sometimes, my mother-in-law would take baby for a walk, and my daughter and I would together and read – or I would do some writing, and she would watch these little music videos from Israel.

We were planning to move to Israel by then, and her dad and savta spoke to her in Hebrew. And we would watch these videos with little kids singing — songs about sometimes being happy and sometimes being sad, songs about picking clementines in the orchards, or songs about how Dad has a ladder, or songs about a little sister named Libi… We watched these all the time until we moved to Israel and didn’t need to anymore.

That was the soundtrack of her first two years – and his first nine months before we moved.

And like my moon belly grow slowly – and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, my kids grew up, and I didn’t realise it, but eight years have passed since we sat on that couch on Tilden Avenue in LA and watched those movies about feelings and about family. Eight years since I learned how to make brisket, and my dad and his wife would come over Fridays for Shabbat, since my only #lifegoals were getting them to go the fuck to sleep at the same time.

My daughter still has big feelings – but her feet are bigger – and tonight she had them in my lap, and maybe it’s because the days are shorter and the nights are colder, and I want to feel cozy, but I looked up one of the songs we used to love to watch, and we sat there, we three – like we did when when they were really young.

I didn’t say where the song was from, and my son bopped along to it like it was his jam. “Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad… Sometimes I’m full, sometimes I’m hungry” but then I realised about midway through that my cheeks were wet, and I was crying, and I looked at my daughter and realised that her cheeks were wet and she was crying, too.

We folded into each other, my daughter and I, weeping. Our heads bent like wilting flowers toward one another.

For me, it was a time warp, and I was back on that couch again with my babies seven years ago. It isn’t that I would do something different with those years, it’s that I would love to relive them again, because through the lens of crying eyes, everything is softened — even the hard times.

And so much time between then and now, from leaving the old couch on Tilden Avenue, to building a new life here in Israel, to how our feet are almost the same size.

“What?” my son asked. “Why are you crying?”

“We used to watch this song when we lived in LA,” I answered.

“It reminds me of my childhood,” my daughter said. “And it reminds me of when you were a tiny baby.”

“And?” my son asked.

“You were only a baby.” She told him, tears flowing down her cheeks. “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and talking to strangers. She is the author of the book Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. Sarah is a work in progress.
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