01/31/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Brand New (Year)

My younger boy just turned four, but the other day he fell asleep against my chest like an infant. As I held his soft, wispy head, he felt big and small at the same time -- lost in a baby's sleep yet spilling off my lap. He's now the age his older brother was when he was born, and I remember how his birth transformed that brother's body for me from small to big in an instant. Holding a tiny, hat-wearing newborn again made my burly, red-headed once-only-child seem like a different species when he climbed on my lap. (And then climbed off to threaten the hospital's quiet order.)

As the promised "due date" approached and passed, I lay at bedtime like a taut sphere next to my boy, at first fearing and then just wondering if this would be the night we'd have to call his grandma and go off without him in the darkness to birth a new baby. (I'd never spent a night away.) Now those brothers are four and eight, and have a bodily intimacy I never had (being an only child myself) that comes of shared bathwater, bunk beds, lullabies and storybooks.

On one of the last evenings before the baby was born I took my first son to the playground, knowing it might be our last as just mother and boy. We were alone there in the December cold. I sat on a bench, great stomach suspended above splayed legs. (Since then I've gone from big to small myself.) Many times in the shadowy dusk my son climbed the ladder, slid the slide, then stretched his arms like wings, flying back to the ladder to climb, slide and fly again. Street lamps and the Manhattan skyline glowed as I watched him in the bliss of simple movement while I sat, still and preoccupied. I saw in his bird-like outstretched arms an image of our family's steady, hopeful flight into what was coming next. It seems a long time ago already, though we're all still flying, if not at the heights of a brand new life. (New Year's 2009)