On a misty March evening in San Francisco, my husband and I went to dinner at a favorite noodle restaurant in the Marina. Afterwards, we strolled down Chestnut Street, holding hands, and stopped in front of a flower store. There, where the fragrance of fresh Tuberose was pungent through the storefront security gate, reminding us of good times we’d spent together in Hawaii, I handed him a small gift—a copy of Lennart Nilsson’s book A Child Is Born, in which I’d marked one page with a post-it note that said “We’re here!”
Seven months later, we celebrated our sixth anniversary with dinner at an acclaimed French restaurant. My husband had spent the day assembling a crib, and we’d agreed our anniversary celebration would be a baby free night. No discussion of baby names or other matters of baby business. The baby was due in just two weeks and my husband, especially, was concerned about how the new arrival would affect our relationship. “I don’t want to lose you,” he said to me that night. Midway through dinner, I put my hand on his arm and asked “Can I borrow your watch?” I felt I’d better start timing the contractions that had been increasing in intensity and frequency through the evening.
The next morning, as I lay on the operating table where our daughter had been delivered by c-section, the nurses prepared to take her to the nursery and my husband looked from the baby to me and said “I’m sorry honey, I have to go with her.”
This weekend our firstborn turns 16.
She has been learning to drive. Seeing her sitting, confident, behind the wheel makes me realize that once she obtains her driver’s license she will cut the last tie that binds her to us (other than her financial dependence, of course). She has already, without our becoming aware, transitioned from asking —“Can I go downtown with my friends after school?”—to informing —“I’m going downtown with my friends after school.” She earns money and pays for her own clothes and goes to bed without being reminded. Soon she will not be dependent on me to give her a ride to the mall or on her dad to pick her up from her friend’s house at midnight.
This year she’s a high school junior. It’s an intense year with the heavy workload of AP classes and SAT tests. And a magical year with the unfettered dreaming about where to attend college, not hampered by the reality of applications. “Where do you think you’d like to go?” we ask her. “What do you think about New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington?” But at night, alone in our bedroom, we turn to each other and say “How will we ever let her go?”