Recently, I brought the rest of the baby bottle paraphernalia downstairs.
One of the things I carried down stairs was a bottle cleaner, in a cheerful, gender neutral lime green and looking now much the worse for wear. I bought it months before we went active on the adoption website. I wanted something baby to be in the utensil drawer, rattling around as though it were at home there.
This month last year, we didn't know Merissa even existed. We didn't receive the match until the beginning of July, but all along, she was there and growing and her birth parents were searching and we were waiting and preparing.
Yesterday I also carried down special "for baby" dish soap- Keith bought it for me when we were stuck in the hotel for three weeks out of state, with a newborn six weeks premature. The scent of that soap takes me right back to that time, everything compressed, under pressure, living out of suitcases and eating out of plastic containers. Time moved by in three hour segments, day and night, dictated by the feeding schedule.
I gave Merissa her first bath on the hotel towel and used the plastic ice bucket to hold the water. We had a view of a back parking lot and a stand of yellow pines. Merissa and I waited there days at a time alone, while Keith drove back up to Georgia to close on the new house and then to move in. We couldn't come up with him because we kept running into problems with our home study and we couldn't cross state lines with her yet.
When we were released to go back home, I can't describe the feeling. I sat beside tiny Merissa in her huge car seat and I watched the green of August go by and I knew we were going home. I had yet to even see the new house finished. Keith had barely had time to set up the rooms and everything was still in boxes when we got home and we didn't care.
Last fall, the master bedroom was bottle central. I would stand there, wearily surveying the six waiting bottles, knowing that by seven in the morning, most or all of them would be dirty and waiting to be cleaned, and I would be standing there, wearily surveying them. Over and over again, day after day.
Now if Merissa wakes in the night, she puts herself back to sleep. Even the one bottle on standby was no longer necessary. The upstairs is officially for sleeping and resting, the downstairs for eating and enjoying.
Outside, the hibiscus are blooming orange and the rose bush is blooming pink and a hanging basket is full of fragile flags of red, orange and purple. A pink plastic swing hangs from yellow chain under the back porch, shaded in the morning and full under the sun in the afternoon.
Inside, Merissa is on the move. In her walker, she is like a fish with teeth, lurking underfoot, ready to strike against the tender back of a heel with the edge of the plastic bumper. She follows me around the kitchen, sink to stove and back again. She is adept at moving that thing around, backing and swiveling with agility; I never know quite where to put my foot down.
She has discovered the raspberry. She has also discovered that this noise is the perfect expression of opinion when the baby food is not up to standard or otherwise not wanted. Also, the gesture is simply much more expressive whenever there is food involved.
Because I don't want her to think this performance a grand one, I try hard to keep a straight face. So far, my stoicism in the face of flying food debris had paid off, as she has yet to realize just what an ace card she is holding.
She is almost crawling. She pushes herself up onto her hands and knees and teeters there for a moment, wide eyed and breathless as if on the verge of epiphany before collapsing into a commando crawl that moves determinedly forward in a slow and stealthy angle.
To encourage her to continue moving forward, I build tall, wobbly block towers and gesture grandly toward it, as though I were a model in a game show, displaying a brand new car.
"Look at the glorious thing that Mommy made! Come, and knock it down!" I invite, oh so enticingly.
Into the carpet her toes will dig and forward she will go, eyes fastened on the target, stopping every few inches to test and see if she is within reach with tiny outstretched fingers.
A few days ago we were outside, waiting for Keith to come home, Merissa in her swing. The sun was at that perfect angle where it lights up the grass from behind, turning the green translucent. The light was striking the unpainted fence, turning it amber and in the narrow lines between the fence boards was nothing but golden light.
I realized that it was June, after all, and summer. I freed Baby from her swing and caught her up.
"It is June!" I whispered to her. "The grass is green and it is late evening and still full of light. You will love these evenings."
We sat down in the grass together to enjoy it.