I remember when I was pregnant, when you would roll around so that it felt like my organs must be moving too, and how you would stick your foot so far out that we could often see your heel, a little knob on my belly, and how when your Mama put her hand on my belly, you would kick, kick, kick with excitement.
I remember when you were born, after such a long, long labor, and you were finally here and you were placed on my belly, and I recognized you. I knew you. I was so, so glad to see you.
I remember marveling at your hands and feet. I had expected them to be so small, but for a newborn, you had gigantic hands, so meaty, so substantial, and your grasp so steady. We had a sense you would be a big guy.
I remember your gaze. From the day you were born, you would lift your head to stare into people’s eyes, and when you did, we were all sure you saw our very souls.
I remember as you grew, that you would become frustrated with new skills. When you wanted to crawl, you would cry as you scooted along on your belly. We wanted to rescue you, but we also knew you had to work it out. And you did.
I remember your wide, open-mouthed, baby drool kisses you would plant on my cheek, my eyes, my nose.
I remember your baby bird mouth and your wide-soft eyes exuding pure love when you nursed.
I remember how early you spoke, how we knew your language, how you would request the book Bye-Bye Big Bad Bully Bug when you were just six months old, saying ,”B-B-B-B-B!” Or how you would call Mama “Mama” and me, “Mamanana” because “Nana” was your word for nursing.
I remember the first time we put you on a swing how timid we were, until we saw Swing Face, an expression of such joy, I thought you would burst.
I remember that as soon as you were mobile, you wanted to help. You would empty the dryer as we did laundry. You would try to empty the dishwasher. You cooked on the kitchen floor. And when you finally learned to walk at seventeen months, it was because you wanted to put your own diapers away.
I remember when you began to request music. You would ask for “La-la-las” for Van Morrison, or “Oh-oh-ohs” for Jack Johnson. By the age of two, you could also tell me, “No Enya!” if you heard her music and began to feel sleepy.
I remember when you wanted to start sleeping on my head. You would lay your head on mine as if it was the comfiest spot in the world. It was at once hilarious and sweet and frustrating to a mom who couldn’t get enough rest.
I remember how you would mimic each of the cats’ meows with amazing precision. I also remember how they would make you erupt into uncontrollable laughter when they pounced or wrestled or reached up to tap your leg.
I remember when you helped plant peas and tomatoes. You weren’t even two. You pushed the seeds deep into the soil. You patted the dirt around the tomato plants. You watched them grow. When the food began growing on the plants, you would beg for “one tomato” or “one pea.” Mama taught you the right shade of orange to know when the tomatoes were ripe, and once you picked and ate all of those, you chose the ones with the faintest blush because you just couldn’t get enough.
I remember how terrified you were of the vacuum cleaner and the day you decided it was your friend and how your baby sitter brought it into the living room so that you could help it take a nap. I remember you in your special vacuum hat that covered your ears to make hanging out with your new friend a little more bearable.
I remember when we had a pellet stove, and you would help me carry pellets in from the garage, how you would help me fill the hopper and place just the right amount of pellets into the stove, how you would very cautiously sit back behind me while I lit the fire, and how, mesmerized, you would sit on my lap gazing at the fire.
I remember when we would make muffins, how you knew which canister had the whole wheat flour, which had the oat bran. You knew which ingredients we were missing. You knew how to level the baking powder, how to sprinkle in a pinch of salt just so, and you would race to eat as much batter as you could before we got them into the oven. Once they were in, you would rest on my lap on the kitchen floor, and we would watch them bake. “Pretty!” you would say. And later, “I want the muffins to be done now, Mommy!” When they were done, they were all you would eat for the rest of the day.
I remember the day when winter seemed to be clearing, and we went for our first stroller walk in a long time. You told me, “It’s so nice to go for a walk, Mommy.” We went to the park, and you wanted to swing and swing, and I was happy to oblige, my heart swelling, tears rolling down my face because these were the moments I longed for before you came along.
I remember your special Fridays with Mama, how the two of you would venture out into the world for an adventure–maybe to the farm, maybe to the library, maybe to a park–and you would come back sleepy, happy, connected.
I remember when you and Mama came up with the game Big Mess, a giant obstacle course in the living room, and how we would all collapse into a pile of pillows.
I remember that from the time you were a baby to when you were a bigger boy, Mama or I would dance you to sleep in the living room, your head sinking into our shoulders, your body growing heavy with sleep. You always loved dancing.
I remember our first time camping, how amazed you were that we had a giant tent like the one in your room, how your first taste of marshmallow was a thing of beauty. Later, when you wanted another marshmallow, and I said we only had them when we had a campfire, you informed us you would make a fire, and you helped Mama gather the wood you would need because you were a problem solver.
I remember when you first saw the redwoods, you hugged them. You reached high in the air and offered them a bite of your sandwich. But you always loved trees. Your Grandma would take you outside when you were a baby, and you would touch all of the trees. When we would go for hikes, you always chose trees to embrace.
I remember Uncle Nate introduced you to dancing rocks that skipped across the river and how dreamy and peaceful you looked in his arms when he took you out on the Van Duzen in a raft and you drifted around.
I remember your first trip to the Exploratorium, how filled with wonder you were the whole day, and how when we left, for the next few days, you told us, “I want to go to the Exploratorium forever!”
I remember our big road trip with Grandma and Mama and how when Grandpa spread a map out on the floor, and got down on his hands and knees to take a look, you just had to do the same. I remember how fun you were in the car, how with each new hotel room, you would check out the amenities, try to make a cup of coffee. And I remember how at the San Diego Zoo, you refused to look at most of the animals. You would turn your head the other way, saying, “I won’t!” You didn’t feel well that day.
I remember at the Grand Canyon, you got to ride like a big boy on the shuttle bus, sitting on a seat next to Mama. When we were at the Canyon itself, you wanted to know where it was. It was hard to grasp, I imagine, that that big wide open space was what we had come to see, so instead, you remembered the hand dryer in the bathroom. Whenever someone would ask us about our trip, you would tell them about that dryer.
I remember the day we found out you had leukemia, how brave you were for your pokes, and then in the emergency room, and on the ambulance, how you held the mask for your breathing treatment in the ambulance just right and how the paramedic was so impressed while I sat there oddly proud and completely terrified.
I remember hospital Caemon emerging, a boy who, with the help of the right people and toys and medical supplies would make the most of his incredibly shrinking world.
I remember the day after you got out of the PICU, and we played some of your favorite music from home, and we danced around your room with you, how you held your Mama tight around her neck and told her how happy you were.
I remember what it was like when we went home for our few short breaks, how you would walk from room to room, making sure everything was there, how you would chase the cats, pull their tails, run down the hall and slam doors, cook up treats in your little kitchen and embrace what it meant to be home.
I remember your first hospital haircut, when I shaved your head in anticipation of your hair falling out. That was the day you got to wear your scrubs for the first time, and you proudly walked down the hospital hallway, talking to your nurses. From then on, you most often introduced yourself as Nurse Caemon.
I remember your smooth, bald head, how perfect it was, how beautiful you were, whether you had your soft platinum locks or not.
I remember on one trip home from the hospital, you were up so very late, and your Mama asked you, “Why are you still awake?” And you smiled your sly grin and said, “Because I’m a clever, clever boy!”
I remember when your eyelashes started to fall out. I remember the last one. I have a photo of it, still attached to your lid. I also remember when they started to grow back, not long before you died.
I remember your arms around my neck, patting my back. If you felt I was sad, you would tell me, “Mommy’s sad. It’s okay, Mommy. Come here. I will comfort you.” And you always did.
I remember lying on your hospital bed in the crook of your arm. You were so very sick, but you wanted us right there with you.
I remember on your last night that you told your Mama and I each, separately, that you loved us.
I remember you, Caemon. I remember more than I could ever write. I remember that you were a real boy with his own thoughts and ideas and creations and passions. But most of all, I remember how when you were in my arms, I felt a wholeness that I have not known before or since.
And I will never, ever, ever forget.