When I was a little girl, my grandparents brought me back a baby doll from their trip to Italy. Since he was a little Italian baby, they baptized him Roberto. He was lifelike and bald and smelled faintly of talcum powder, and was just the right size to fit in any real baby clothes I could scrounge up. For weeks was a devoted mommy and dragged Roberto with me wherever I went.
My grandmother gave me my father's old baby book for Roberto. She had only filled in a few of the details of my father's babyhood, since with my grandfather stationed away during World War II she undoubtedly hadn't had much time for such things. I happily started filling in the details of Roberto's life alongside them in my childish hand.
When I got to "first teeth" and "first steps" my heart sank. Peering as best I could into Roberto's plastic mouth, I verified that he had no teeth. There was no way his bowlegged baby legs could walk, either. He would never grow hair, would never go off to school, and I could never complete his baby book. No matter how much I loved him and cared for him and fed him imaginary spoonfuls of baby food, he would never be big.
In tears, I explained my heartbreak to my mother. She shrugged at my chagrin. That's the problem with baby dolls, she explained lamely.
Yesterday I had a lump in my throat as I sorted though le Petit's clothes for those he's outgrown. We already have three full boxes of his old clothing in the basement, carefully packed away for a future brother or sister. Filling them up always risks making me cry.
It is all too much, too fast.
The bookshelf behind the dining room table is plastered with pictures from the first year of le Petit's life. Often, after le Petit is asleep and my husband and I finally sit down to eat dinner together, I look them over in amazement.
"Can you ever believe he was that tiny?" I ask my husband yet again, "Look at the one where he's sitting in your lap! Or the one where he's nursing, only a few days old. Those tiny fists curled up against my chest!"
Now, not-so-tiny le Petit is agile enough to climb up the couch. He has a mouthful of teeth, including all four canines and a molar. He doesn't just walk now, but runs. "You're so big!" I tell him when I hoist him up off the floor and notice his sudden heft, or put him in his car seat and see his head has inched closer to the top.
When I'm up at four a.m. or I'm cleaning under the high chair for the third time in a day, I don't see it. But when I open the baby book that I'm struggling to keep up to date, it overwhelms me.