I Get to Be Here

be hereFourteen years ago, on a gorgeous sunny day in Central Park, a cute little 9-month-old girl crawled over to my 9-month-old girl and started playing with her blocks. The girls had similar names and similar curly hair. My husband and I and her parents bonded over the coincidences — her mom shared the same initials as me, they were the same ages as my husband and me, we all lived on the Upper East Side, came from similar backgrounds, and the girls were born at the same hospital.
Us moms met a week later at the playground. We sat the girls back to back in a bucket swing and watched them giggle. We talked about nursing and work, and our insecurities and fears of raising kids in the city. We talked about the brand of car seat we bought to keep them safe. I was so excited to have met a mom who I bonded with, having struggled the past few months in finding like-minded new moms to befriend.
A few days later, I called to say hi and left a voicemail (that’s what we did in those days). When she didn’t call me back within a day, I felt dejected. The next day, I saw her number appear on my screen, but when I picked up, it was her sister, telling me she had died, along with her husband, in a terrible car accident. The baby survived, shielded by the car seat, though with broken bones and a concussion, but she would be fine.

I didn’t go to the funeral – do you go having known someone for one day? But I think about her all the time because every time I get to be there, I know she doesn’t.

I always get to be there for my daughter.
I got to see her learn to walk,
I got to hear her say mommy,
I got to see her eat her first piece of cake, her first taste of ice cream,
I got to introduce her to the beach,
I got to introduce her to her sister,
I got to drop her off at Kindergarten,
I got to meet all her teachers,
I got to comfort her through all those doctors appointments,
I got to teach her how to do a cartwheel,
I got to sit through all those terrible band concerts,
I got to send her off to sleep-away camp,
I got to get her a phone,
I got to get her a bat mitzvah dress,
I got to get her a puppy,
I get to experience countless eye rolls,
I get to talk about SATs,
I get to watch her win cheerleading competitions,
I get to spend every day inside the house with her waiting out coronavirus.

I love getting older because every passing year is a year I got to be there.

I love documenting it with photos. I love blowing out vacations we can’t afford, going on day trips we don’t have time for, and ticking things off my myriad lists. I owe that to my anxiety, my crazy never-ending neuroses that remind me that today may be the last, and to my friend for one day.
While I try not to live my life in fear, my fear lets me live my life to the fullest. Maybe someday, when I am old and penniless, I will wish we had saved for a rainy day, fixed up the house, and planned for early retirement. But in the absence of a crystal ball, I’m going to continue to fill today with as much as I can, so I get to be here for it.