10 years ago, I climbed gingerly down those steep steps to the beachside restaurant and looked out over a beautiful ocean and held his hand. We ate, talked, and he helped me as I paced my climb back up to the clifftop, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when I made it out with that baby still in place, counting down the days until she would arrive and our lives would change forever. We celebrated 30 with the optimism and excitement of the promise of new life; still newly weds, still young, recently moved to Cornwall and into our first house; everything laying out before us like that glorious technicolor sunset stretching across the Cornish sky.
She arrived quickly, born out of a stormy October night. We sat and held her in our arms, surrounded by grandparents and aunties and uncles and sipped champagne. We put her to sleep beside us and watched her all night, eager and unsure like so many first-time parents gone before us.
They say you blink and you miss it and I thought them all crazy at first. Holding her in my arms those first sleepless weeks, alternately buoyed by such a fierce love as I never thought possible, then drowning in waves of tiredness and self-doubt. There were days when every minute seemed like an hour and every day like a week, and why does everyone keep telling me how fast it flies by? There seemed to be so many of those days when 2 o’clock in the afternoon crawled around and I wondered how I would fill another 3 hours alone with this baby and why doesn’t anyone tell you about feeling like this when you’re sitting in the groups with all those other expectant mums, talking about baby names and birthing plans?
And then, a decade rushes by and we are celebrating again. Parties thrown, surprises unveiled and 40 is quickly overshadowed by another celebration. That little one, our precious firstborn, reaches up and races forward and suddenly we are in double digits and I am left gulping in air, doubled over at the side of the road with the exertion of it all; the race has been fast and I cannot believe how far we have come already. It seems that the wisdom of the ages is proved right once more; those first few months of backwards-time give way more quickly than I would care to recall to months and years speeding past and we suddenly find ourselves here; another milestone, marking the way along our journey.
When she was little, I wrote letters to her in my head. I always meant to write them down, but there never seemed the time, the space. I wanted to tell her how precious it was to me – how precious she was to me – that first-time adventure we took together. To thank her, for letting me try it all out, fumble through, make mistakes that I could never put right or undo. There are so many precious firsts that we have experienced together – things that can never and will never be firsts again. That first wide-eyed night, when we changed her and picked her up and cuddled her every time she moved. When we were so afraid to take our eyes off her, lest she somehow disappear to that celestial place from whence we were sure she must have come. The first smile, first crawl, the first tentative steps, away from me and into her own form of independence. The first day at school, first sleepover, first camp. The first time she held my hand, told me she loved me, told me what she wanted to be when she grew up.
We celebrate 10 and we celebrate the bittersweet passing and turning of time. We watch the miracle of a life unfurling, precious roots reaching down and anchoring themselves well, green shoots reaching up, face upturned towards the Son, expecting and demanding the fullness of all that life has to offer. I remember in her quiet determination and relentless optimism that this is what youth is: hope and eagerness and dreams and joy. We celebrate 10 and we celebrate all those precious memories and firsts that have gone before and made us – her and me – into who we are.
We celebrate 10 and we celebrate the milestone as exactly that: a granite boulder on a long and winding road that marks the way as we pass it by. Immovable and unchangeable as time itself, marking the way for us as it does for the hundreds and thousands that have passed before us and that will pass by long after we have journeyed on
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