Paul asked me again when I am taking this picture down. He’s asked at intervals for years. He doesn’t like the answer, for reasons that escape me.
Never. I am never taking it down.
It used to be above the fireplace in a frame, but the frame was destroyed in a mysterious accident. I wasn’t at home. I believe but cannot verify that balls that were not supposed to be in the house were in fact in the house for some period of time. No one’s talking.
Regardless, the frame was broken. I cleaned up the broken glass and splintered wood and stuck the picture up on the fridge temporarily.
When Levi was a newborn, Paul would hear him in the morning, feed him a bottle, and then lie down again, the baby newly diapered and bundled between us. I’d wake up just enough to touch the tip of his tiny pert nose and draw my finger down the indent above his perfect upper lip. And that chin. Was there ever a chin so delightful? Paul would lie there quiet but awake (congenitally unable to sleep after 5:00 in the morning), and kiss the baby’s temple at intervals.
The morning I took this picture, I sat up and looked at them, drowsy faces in a sea of white, and I could hardly breathe for joy. I put the camera away and lay down again, curled close so I could feel Levi’s belly rise as he breathed, and feel Paul, constant and solid, on the other side of him. I wondered then what that feels like. I still wonder. What do babies know? What did Levi know, as he lay there fast asleep, belly full and bottom clean, with big warm skin on either side? Did he know how safe he was, and what we would do to make sure he stayed that way? Did he sense our wonder at his very existence, the baby we got to keep?
I haven’t gotten around to getting another frame. The picture is still on the fridge. And I am never taking it down.