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Mermaids Can Serve Cake, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:00am

Peonies and Polarbears

Today Cara’s twins have their first birthday.

Cara is one half of the wedding photographer duo, Lillian and Leonard. She also writes the blog Peonies and Polarbears. Last November she gave birth to twin girls, and, as she says, survived. Judging from her photos, the whole fall-on-the-floor-eyes-rolling-from-cuteness family did.

I remember my daughter’s first birthday. Like most significant events in this era of digital photography, I remember the photos of the party as well or better than the event. Two images in particular. In one, a group of invited parents stands in the water of my father’s swimming pool, holding all those almost one-year old babies. The pool was black-bottomed and the water appeared ultramarine, the light, bright.

In the other, I’m sitting on the poolhouse porch, wearing a white maillot patterned in a French-ish sort of way, nursing my red-headed daughter. She’s in a Florence Eiseman green seersucker one-piece. Toddler K. had very little hair, but what she did was wet, and on end. Her eyes are closed, her skin as fair as always, a flush across her cheeks.

I’m smiling broadly, optimistically, in that photo. After all, I’ve survived. After all, she’s one year old. After all, I’d just managed to have an actual party for 14 adults and toddlers where everyone got enough to eat. Sure, the only activity was swimming in my dad’s pool. That’s cheating. I get it. And the food was nothing but cold cuts, bread, cheese, fruit, and birthday cake. Might even have been cold cuts from Safeway. Not remotely special, cute, or edgy.

But you know, it was an act of will and completion. Those are some pretty scarce commodities in the first year of raising a child.

That year requires immersion. You dip your head underwater, thinking to catch a quick glimpse, only to emerge a year later, wholly mermaid. Your hair is seaweed, sand maps strange lands across your feet, salt water ceases to sting.

Those without children have other immersive experiences. We all share, however, the moment of exploding out of the water, spluttering. With any luck then, to float, face upturned, and paddle. I like to wave my hands at my side and go nowhere much.

Happy Birthday to Ella and Ammie. I wish you good luck and a rip tide. Happy weekend to everybody.

30 Responses

  1. What adorable twins…
    it must be a monumental task raising twins.
    Can you imagine triplets?

    One at a time seemed daunting at times…but we survived.
    Your simple fare was more than adequate, just the fact that you made the effort is sufficient.
    You always manage to make me teary eyed when you reminisce about babies and those child rearing days….

  2. I find that I’ve become nostalgic about toys my kids had. All those years spent hanging onto G.I. Joe helmets and guns made took their toll.

    I found myself looking at G.I. Joe lunch bags wondering if my 23 y/o would like one to carry his lunch to his new job…

  3. I still recall that victorious feeling of surviving the first year. I bought myself flowers.

    What beautiful twins and a great blog, too.

  4. Strangely, I found the second year way more trying than the first. The first year, I stayed home, nursed, and fell into an easy routine, albeit tired, but didn’t have to be anywhere, so it was fine. The second year, I went back to work, she walked, ate food, drank from a bottle, felt guilty and sad to be away from my daughter ~ way more juggling of time and emotions for me.
    My daughter is 28 and getting married next year. I’m finding myself very nostalgic about it all right now, and going through baby photos like crazy.
    Adorable twins.

  5. lisa this is so beautifully written.

    the first year is the toughest, hmmm maybe the 15th too, but you captured it perfectly.


    ps – there wasn’t much else to choose from in those days. coldcuts and white bread ruled the market.

  6. As a mother of twins myself, I can totally relate to the feeling of survival, and I distinctely remember even saying to my husband : “We made it, we survived!” on the night of our babies first birthday. I don’t feel fully mermaid yet, though, but I am gaining confidence as we go and enjoying the transformation :) Happy birthday to the lovely girls and congratulations to the proud parents!

  7. Some of it still amazes, even so many, many years later, and you capture that amazement at our survival so very well. My SIL’s twins are now 33, my sister’s almost 11, I marvel at how they managed. Best wishes to Cara on her twin daughters’ first birthday, and Happy Birthday to those very sweet-looking girls.

  8. I love that analogy. I think you’ve tapped into something universal that explains why first birthdays are such a big deal for parents. (My son was sick on his first birthday party, running a fever and crying/sleeping through most of it. The adults enjoyed coffee and fancy chocolate cake picked up from a bakery.)

  9. My husbands aunt use the word “survive” and said that occasionally after a night out as long as the children were still alive (being home with a babysitter) was all that mattered. That always made me laugh!

  10. This is such a lovely description of the first year. I love “only to emerge a year later, wholly mermaid”…so eloquent and so true. And just the mention of Florence Eiseman makes me sigh.

  11. What a beautiful post Lisa. I was looking at family photographs the other day and feeling nostalgic about my babies too. It’s nice seeing them all grown up and thriving, but there’s nothing like those first three years of babyhood.

  12. Oh, I have twins! That first year, there are photos of the boys reaching their milestones, and also of me sleeping at various locales: home, cottages, NYC, Florida. Sleep was more desirable and precious than emeralds. Twins are gret fun (and also work) and your friend Cara will enjoy watching them grow, as does anyone with a baby.

  13. Oh I am feeling so jealous now. Of everyone who ever had a baby… we are having trouble and sometimes it feels so unfair. Like we did not understood the how to part , eventhough of course I understand far more details than I would want to in this situation, being a biologist and a vet. I so want to have this experience already. I guess I just have to learn to be patient.
    I love your writing as always, love your comparison of emerging as a mermaid, and the Little Mermaid was one of my all time favorite stories, along with other shows intended for teenagers about girls becoming mermaids (H2o, just add water).

  14. I’m late. As always…to this comment party but I couldn’t NOT say something. Babies…and a double dose of them…with NO hair. LFG was bald for what seemed like the first twenty months and I think bald babies are just the cutest. And the little rolls of dumplingesque baby fat with the creases in between.


  15. That is the best kind of birthday.

    It was ten years ago this month that I met my namesake, Niece #2, for the first time. She was three weeks old, and pink and white and bald as an egg with bright blue eyes. I don’t remember much about that weekend, except that I must have sat in an armchair for most of it with her in my arms, her sister sometimes snuggled beside me to listen to me read her favorite books.

    This weekend we celebrated our birthdays together. Hers was last week, and it was a bit of a disappointment, as she spent most of it wrapped in a blanket in the living room, playing board games by candlelight, her party (friends and family and cake and cold cuts) cancelled because of power outages and felled trees on houses. So we tried to make things a little better. I brought her a pair of binoculars and we spent the afternoon birdwatching. Later, when she grew bored and a little hyperactive at dinner, X took her aside and taught her to count in binary (which she picked up quickly, to his amazement). Later, we had our “book club,” where I usually read aloud and she interrupts with all kinds of perceptive insights into the characters and plot of a book I’d feared she’d be too young to really appreciate when I got it for her. Adorable baby, now a wonderful kid.

  16. Quintessence – Thank you. I do adore those little girls’ and their photos.

    Hostess – Oh I cannot imagine triplets. I bet all us mothers of a certain age get a little teary-eyed.

    RoseAG – That is so cute. There is ironic hip value in the retro toys. He might like the lunchbox, you never know.

    Dawn – So wonderful that you bought yourself some flowers. So far seeing.

    Metscan – :).

    flwjane – Thank you.

  17. kathy – Interesting. My babies didn’t sleep through the night until they hit 2 years old, either of them, and I think that sleep deprivation overwhelmed me.

    MJ – :).

    thegardenerscottage – Thank you so much. I guess you’re right – do you remember when packaged fresh ravioli first showed up in the markets?:)

    Aleatha – Thank you. I cheer you for your triumphs.

    Mary anne – Congratulations!

    Marcela – Congratulations to all mothers of twins!

  18. Naurnie – xoxox

    Mater – Wow. You are surrounded by twins:).

    deja pseu – Thank you. And let’s hear it for chocolate cake.

    Beth Dunn – SURVIVE!

    janeyann – Thank you so much. And Florence Eiseman makes some of the cutest kids’ clothes ever.

    Melissa – Thank you! And those girls! Go read Cara’s blog and there are more photos…

  19. Susan – Thank you very much. Oh, babyhood.

    Duchesse – More twins! Hooray! And isn’t it lovely that now we can sleep as much as we like?

    jamie – I bet that can be arranged.

    Amanda – I wish you all the best, for a dive into the waters.

    ADG – Sublime. Exactly. I had bald babies too, and will always have a soft spot for the little chubby cueballs.

    Staircase Witch – I just love your stories of you and your niece. She is so lucky to have you as an aunt, as is her mom.

  20. You write most beautifully about motherhood, in my opinion. Six months in, the sand is gathering in the bags under my eyes, and yet I feel quite beautiful. I look forward to the bursting forth you write of. Thanks for blogging.

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