Walking through the aisles of the grocery store the other day, I saw a ghost.
Okay, not really a ghost; it was more of an image that hearkened to my not-so-long-ago past.
I saw a mother of twinfants walking down the aisle.
I recognized myself in her instantly:
Slightly shocked look (as if still in disbelief that it is possible to be this tired and still be semi-functional). Check.
Dazed expression and glassed over eyes. But don't let that seemingly vacant look throw you off. She's in survival mode. You might not think it, but behind that very tired visage enormous thoughts are taking place. She may not know exactly which store she's currently shopping in, or what that stain on her shirt is, or even when she last showered...but I promise you that complex math is being worked on in her head. She's in a near constant state of mental math, working out how long she has until the next feeding. Just how much time remains before one baby starts to fuss. And as most parents of multiples will tell you, once one starts fussing, you've already lost the game (if you're going for a perfect score, which would mean a feeding that does involve massive amounts of crying. In stereo.) Check.
"Shopping Mode" posture, which means she was pushing the giant double stroller in front of her while pulling the shopping cart behind her; managing somehow (miraculously) to avoid hitting the displays, running over toes, or bumping into the Curious Public who come out of the woodwork to look as soon as a double stroller is in view. Check.
I used to be her.
I watched her from a distance, remembering the time when I was her. When that was me. I glanced over at the girls who were standing beside me, quietly chatting about some new idea they've been mulling over; probably some plan they're hatching, no doubt. (I made a mental note to find out what all the secrecy was about).
Suddenly, I found myself fully confronted with how far we've come in their seven and half years. I was standing just 15 feet away from this young mother with her babies, but the distance between us was vast. The milestones between her children and my own were many and monumental. I hadn't completely seen it before this moment. We have come so far. Beyond far, really.
At that moment, one of her twins kicked a toy off of the stroller and to the ground without the mother noticing. The girls walked over to pick it up and I handed it back to the mother. She thanked me, in the automatic way of the truly, very tired, and then noticed my own set of twins beside me. She looked at me with the same look that I remember (oh-so-well) giving to the parents with older multiples that I used to encounter when we were in the thick of those early days of primal survival; the look that begs the unasked questions: So you can survive the desperate tiredness? Does it get easier? Can I do this? Can I do this? Can I do this?
I smiled at her and said the very words that were always soothing for my own frantic mind back at that time: "It gets easier. It really does. But the best part is that every step along the way is magic. You'll see."
She smiled at me. I smiled at her. One of the babies started to cry. One of my girls meowed. (God bless them, my two girls still like to be a cat when we're in public. If they don't turn out to be method actors, I will be surprised.)
So we bid our farewell and moved on.
I remember those days so well. How is it that I've traversed such a great distance from Twinfants to nearly 8 year olds, but still remember exactly the position I sat in while feeding them--that gentle jockeying to keep them both on the pillow at the same time. How does that not fade?
Time marches ever onward; but it's the memories that anchor us to our lives, I think.
There are things about those early days that I miss, sweet memories of softly sleeping babies that I cherish. But I wouldn't trade places for a moment.
But it's always nice to see just how far you've come, when you didn't realize exactly how big the journey really was.