A year ago – pregnant, divorcing, and in the surprising new reality of a pandemic – I discovered solace in a small group of close friends. Distanced, we found ways to spend time together: outdoor movie nights, sunsets at the edge of the ocean, occasional meals on separate blankets.
One evening, one of them said to me, “Just think: next summer, you won’t be able to watch sunsets at all. You’ll be home with your baby.”
The thought of that was still beyond my understanding. Of course I knew that I’d be welcoming my little one during the long nights of winter; of course I knew that I’d have new responsibilities and that my time would be commandeered by a tiny person. But the idea of not seeing a sunset was ludicrous. Surely I’d bring him along? Surely he’d have in his bones the feeling of saying goodnight to the world by watching the sun go down?
But she was right. Here it is, the end of summer, and I’ve not seen a single sunset in person. I can’t: they come during my baby’s bedtime, in the delicate moments after I’ve put him in his crib, when even another adult’s presence in place of mine feels too risky. Sometimes, I see the sunset from afar, peering out from in between the white blinds on my window. Oftentimes, I miss it altogether.
Before I had the baby, people sometimes warned me about all the ways in which my life would change. A loss of freedom, a curtailing of whims. Certainly, there has been some of that, but to be honest it’s more due to Covid than anything else. I don’t take him into stores; he hasn’t met all that many people. But I don’t feel like my life has been made smaller. It’s quite the opposite, in fact: my life feels larger than it ever has.
Now, I have a new ritual. When we are done with his bath, I take my son outside and stand on our front porch. We say goodnight to the world from there: goodnight to the cars going wherever they’re going; goodnight to the passionflower and hydrangea in our front yard; goodnight to the passers-by on their way to any number of somewheres. Goodnight to the neighbors’ flag. Goodnight to the birds flying overhead. Goodnight even to the sun, sometimes, still high in the sky.
Maybe next summer, evenings will find us at the edge of the world. Maybe I’ll be holding him; maybe his hand will be in mine as we crouch by the water. Or maybe we’ll be at home, like we were tonight: his head on my shoulder, light fading around us, the world itself held entirely within the small space of my arms.
My life has indeed changed. The sunset, I can love from afar.