Life is not a series of gig lamps, symmetrically arranged;
Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope
Surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
That’s a quote from Virgina Woolf, and it appears on the cover of the thesis I wrote about her in graduate school over a decade ago. A gig lamp is one of those gas lanterns that used to sit at the foot of a stage. The thesis I wrote is about the passing of time, and how Virginia Woolf believed that time is not linear. In other words, one moment is not like all of the others.
Each moment of our lives has a different length, a different weight, a different color. Each moment carries with it a different meaning. Rather than forming a tidy time line, the moments of our lives come together as a kind of tapestry.
Oscar, I used to spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. I used to live what they call a life of the mind, before you came along and tore me out of my own thoughts, grounding me in the present moment with your urgent needs and the heft and weight of your physical presence (usually clad in pajamas with sticky fingers).
In the middle of the night when I am nursing you, I watch your hand stroke your little blanket, and I think about how we will soon end this phase in our life. One day you will turn to me for comfort, and I won’t be able to give you what you want. It will be the first of many small betrayals. It’s a hard lesson to learn at so young an age, that to love someone means to not be able to give them everything they need, because of the limits of what it means to be human.
Oscar, you are a beautiful and spirited little boy. No matter what happens, you will always be the love of my life.
I love watching you change and grow and explore the world around you. I love watching you try to solve a problem. I love watching the triumph on your little face as you figure out how to fit the square block in the square hole. You do this thing where once the block fits and slides into the hole, you hold it there for a minute before dropping it, as if savoring the moment. Instead of hoping that you have a life without challenges, I hope you have a life filled with those moments when you had a problem and figured out how to solve it.
It took me a long time to write this letter. I think the one-year mark was just too special. I wanted to have perfect pictures and I wanted to find all of the right words to express what it means to be your mother. Then I realized that most of our moments together are imperfect, out-of-focus, and fleeting, like the kind of pictures that we take and throw away. But that’s ok, because they are not really thrown away. They are all a part of the intricate and beautiful puzzle that is our life, and they are luminous.