I have spent way too much time staring at a giraffe named April. Day after day, she gracefully walks in her pen from one corner to the other, lowering and raising her long exquisite neck and swooshing her mischievous tail. The social media taglines taunt me every day with the hope that today, like yesterday, and the three weeks before, is the day. I marvel at how all of us hope-dwellers are united in our fascination with a pregnant purple-tongued mammal. I have to admit: I am totally enthralled by the mystery and expectation of it all. And when the day finally comes where April gives birth, hopefully by the time you’re actually reading this, the world will have collectively rejoiced.
Lives lived well are a celebration of periodic milestones among the mundane. After all, who doesn’t love dancing with exhilaration once in a while? Some milestones are small, like our first steps, but some are significant moments such as graduation, a wedding, a new child to love, or a professional triumph. We treasure the Hallmark cards, savor the food, and post our selfies to honor the fact that our lives were just kissed by destiny. Some milestones happen without warning, like a man on one knee in Times Square; and some are eagerly anticipated, like a cap and gown. The beauty of milestones is that we usually recognize them for what they are, and the most genuine milestones have the power to flood our hearts with faith and bliss.
Another beautiful thing about milestones is that some are so intense that you can never be the same again. I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first child on Valentine’s Day 1999. I was alone when that plastic stick showed a big bright pink plus sign on it. My life was forever changed. I stared intently into the mirror for quite some time, my eyes searching my own reflection to see if I looked different, if I could see pregnancy in my soul. In those moments, I was the only one who knew and it was one of the most sacred, precious moments of my life. From that day on, I lived a milestone every day for thirty-eight weeks and four days as I, like April, waited for my precious creature to make me a mom for the first time. I read every book, I watched the television shows, and I talked to anyone who would answer my questions about motherhood without gratuitously touching my belly. When I finally went into labor, I arrived on the maternity floor with a lottery-winning grin and my well-organized overnight bag. The nurse nodded and shuffled me down the hallway with all of the other laborettes. Mundane for them, maybe, but this was my milestone of a lifetime and I was beaming… until they introduced me to a lovely thing called pitocin.
She was born on a Sunday morning right about the time church starts, but still early enough to catch the pre-game ESPN chatter. She was a 23.5” ten-pound vanilla bean of a baby girl with an angel’s kiss right in the middle of her forehead. They handed her to me so matter of factly, as if I would surely know what to do simply because she was mine. And that right there is how some of life’s best milestones happen: first eagerly anticipated and then sudden and surprising. She rested so easily in my arms while the entire family decided to grab a few minutes of hot showers and a few hours of sleep. We were suddenly alone as perfectly familiar strangers. Instead of looking into my own eyes, I now looked into my daughter’s eyes and I found that her gaze was inquiring and nothing short of miraculous. “We’ll figure it out,” I said. And then I sang a gritty and exhausted version of “You’ll Be In My Heart,” which was the song I sang to her every day since Valentine’s Day.
Day-to-day life comes with some amazing interruptions that give us opportunities to experience profound love and enchantment. We go back to our regularly scheduled programming in due time; but in the milestone season, we are reminded that some of our days are carved out for nothing more than captivating magic, tears of joy, and awe-inspired wonder. They are our signature pivot points that cause smiles like no other, inscribe their meaning on our souls, and sometimes alter the very nature of our existence. Enjoy each one as they come for they are indelible proof that you are deserving of great joy. And, until the next one comes along, enjoy being enthralled by the continuing mystery and expectation of it all.