I've been thinking about Brooklyn.
One evening, about 30 women gathered in the upstairs of the church building. It was an activity I'd helped plan. We were sitting on the floor on dozens of blankets, a spread of delicious food on a low table to the side (good food and church always go together, don't they, or at least they should), and strings of twinkle lights surrounding us. It was dark out but it felt incredibly warm, being together; missing the pieces of our puzzle that couldn't make the Saturday activity, but feeling a little more whole and a little less heavy just being together. There was something that ran much thicker in my Brooklyn Relief Society than I'd ever experienced in a prior congregation. There was a spoken and unspoken need for each other. Different women filled different holes. When one person left, that hole reverberated through the group. We weren't perfect but we all cared and were trying. We loved each other. "Charity never faileth" in its imperfect form.
We got it when somebody said their husband had been working a lot. Oh, we got that. Or when somebody lost their job, or found out they had to move because their apartment building had been bought by a new company and was tripling its rent. Or when somebody had mice, or lice, or the worst: bed bugs. (The worst!) Or when someone's family came to stay too long (and slept on their bed, or couch, because where else?), or lost their wallet on their subway, or had a mortifying experience on the subway, or with a stranger passing by. Or having a baby, or not having a baby. (Again.) Or finding a new favorite restaurant that has room for strollers to park, a beautiful grocery store with pretty good produce, comfortable sandals, a gem on Craigslist apartment listings, or a dream job and a nanny they trusted. There were all these little things tying us together. We loved and hated the city together and there was nothing more funpainful we'd ever wanted.
For the activity, we were sharing our favorite things. Each person brought one physical object and explained why they loved this thing, what it meant to them, etc. It was surprisingly sentimental and thoughtful. I mean, I knew people would be thoughtful but wow. Every person had brought something so funny, or beautiful, or amazing and it just kept getting better and better. Then a friend stood up and shared this:
She shared that in a moment of total craziness while trying to put her three kids to bed in one room (New York!), she had a moment of clarity. She grabbed her phone and started recording audio. She let it record through the kids' back and forth, through nursing her youngest, then through story time, then prayers, then the kids falling asleep together with her arms around them. She let it record the quiet, thinking of each of our children and the period of life they were in. Just relishing the moment and letting herself be.
Of course I cried. This was during the Wander/Days days—my husband co-founded a start-up and the pressure and time demands for those years were beyond anything we'd experienced prior, even with lots of late nights and weekend freelance work under our belts. I was pregnant with our second child and overwhelmed by what ifs and loneliness from anxiety and motherhood. In so many ways, I had thought I was built to be a mother. My disposition, the things I like, the things I hoped to do with my life, the way I was raised. It all made sense in my head that becoming a mother and raising my children day in and day out would be the fulfillment of my childhood dreams. I'd apply my education and work experience and just be on cloud nine all the time raising chubby blonde babies. (A dose of naive with your naive, anyone?) Anyway, that was not what was happening so I felt the weight of her words in a very real way. I wanted to let myself be. Enjoy my baby. Love my baby. Love myself. Do what was best for myself, but what was also best for my family. I felt pulled, bored, and sad with intervals of being totally fine. (As a person does.) But at that moment I just wanted to go home, curl up next to that warm sweet-smelling body of the little boy that really made me the happiest person in the world and relish the moment in peaceful bliss. Understand the miracle I got to create with the other person I love more than anything else in the world. Remember the trying times during pregnancy, how I waited every day to have another miscarriage or loss just like before, how scary placenta previa was and the three weeks of full bed rest, how that "bleed" and hospital stay threw everything into perspective: I'm having a baby and all I care about is getting that baby safely here. No matter what. Nothing else matters. I knew I could focus and love—I just needed let myself do it. The rest could work itself out. Love first, everything else after. Us. Us first. Then everything and everybody else after. It's love first and then everything else.
So. Ever since my friend talked about her voice memos on her phone, I've been recording my life in audio. Just here and there in the most random places and times. When I give the boys a bath, or when we're driving in the car at sunset. I'm always really specific when I label them because I've realized I'm a word person, so I've got to have the voices and the context. Reading Busytown + Toots and Afternoon Bath Time on a Rough Day are some of my top picks. (Those are the real titles.) But my favorite are the times I've recorded car naps. Yeah, like I've intentionally recorded my kids sleeping in the car when we're parked somewhere. There's just snoring, and the occasional sound of cars going by but it's incredibly relaxing to me. And it makes me laugh because they snore SO loud. Lil' pig babies that played so hard and are happy and healthy, sleeping in their car seats. I made those! I did it. I'm doing it! We're alive. The recordings ring nostalgic for just the two months that have gone by, which is just what I need when it's hard to grasp the passage of time: you stop and think and it's been like three years and you have two kids. It's freaky. Voice memos has been a little way for me to snag moments and freeze them.
So now I can flip through pictures AND audio after they're asleep at night. Year of My People in full force.