Oscar is almost eighteen months old.

just as thirty-five demarks, for pregnant women, a status shift into “advanced maternal age”, eighteen months demarks, in my mind, an inviolable Mason-Dixon line behind which babyhood lies, lost and unrecoverable.

i see them all over him, the marks of childhood, of his “advanced infancy” teetering into something far more boyish than baby-like. he surprises me with his independence, his ability to wander into the sitter’s house and wave “bye bye” with equanimity, moving on from daddy’s arms to the lure of the blue wagon without a backward glance. there is growing evidence of his internal life, in his capacity to communicate it. he still says “yep” more than “no,” but toddlerhood looms in the caprice of his outrage: offended at the closing of a dangerous shower door, at the texture of oatmeal, he is then utterly mollified by the appearance of the cat or the prospect of going out for a walk. he throws his poor Baby – his doll, his lovey, a perfect match – to the floor in a fit of temper, then glowers at the world for the offense and picks Baby up and hugs him tight. he makes me laugh. we sit, these days, for whole lengths of books, laughing at rhymes and pictures and recurring characters. this week his favourite, his one true love, is the little green bug in the Richard Scarry books. last week it was Sandra Boynton’s hippo. he moves from one fascination to another with the whole force of his being, casting all his delight into the process of seeking and finding that little green bug, hippos now discarded by the wayside, no longer of any interest. i imagine that these enchantments fall on him out of nowhere, as if last week he lived in a world without endearing little green bugs in four-armed t-shirts, and this week, well! there they are! how enthralling! and his high little voice calls “buh! buh!” almost plaintively to them, as if he himself has called them into being, as if they are fragile and may disappear again.

i suppose i feel the same way about him. each stage he has passed through since his birth, he has still been my baby first and foremost. now, he straddles the threshold of personhood. he will always be my baby, in a part of my heart. and equally true, he will never be my baby again.

this has been coming, clear in its advance, since he first pulled himself upright late last December. it has been coming, really, i suppose since the day he was conceived. we are all on the path of the lifecycle. if we are lucky, we grow tall and old and wise before decay. when i am stern with myself, when i rein myself in, i know this is really all i can wish for him. that he live and outlive me.

but the step over the line, this wild charge into the place where babyhood is no more…i stand, Lot’s wife, at the threshhold of O’s becoming, ready to celebrate but unable to keep from looking back, wistful at the inexorable, intangible loss, sorrowful for what will never be again.