When our daughter lay in the ICU on her second day of being alive in the world, we stood above her bed and asked her to breathe. Her small hands were strapped to the bed because she was already so strong she nearly ripped out her breathing tube. (Somehow, though, she kept making a Buddhist mudra with her fingers and held it.) Her feet were tangled up in cords and covered in bandaids where the wonderful nurses took another vial of blood for tests to see what was keeping her from breathing. As soon as the nurses and doctors finished, Danny and I went back to holding hands over her isolette, leaning down to kiss any place on her face we could find without breathing tube, feeding tube, or tape keeping both of them attached to her.
We watched her, touched her, sang to her, and read stories to her. We tried to never leave her bedside. And every few moments, we leaned our faces down and said, in our sweetest voices, “Breathe, sweetie. Breathe. You know how to do it. You can. Just breathe.”
I promised myself that if she lived, I would get this tattoo.
She started breathing. She got her breathing tube out on Danny’s birthday. “Best present I ever got,” he says. By my birthday, she was home with us.
And now, she’s alive. This girl? She’s tough. After all she has been through, she tumbles and comes up laughing. She’s talking up a storm, saying thank you after meals, reading under the dining room table completely absorbed. She’s active and in love with life, jumping on the bed as much as she can, her eyes wide open, her legs strong.
It is our greatest joy to be with her, to help her leap into life.
Two weeks ago, it was time to keep that promise I made to myself.
This is my new tattoo: breathe. It’s on the underside of my right wrist, where I can see it easily, when I type or talk or wonder what to do next. For those of you who are font geeks, like me, it’s in Garamond. A wonderful young man named Casey, who once was my student, almost 15 years ago, gave me this tattoo.
It feels good.
This tattoo is a sea change for me. (The name of the tattoo place is Sea Change.) I love the yes tattoo I got nearly five years ago. Everything that is good in my life has arrived to me from putting that yes upon me permanently. I will always live it.
But that yes has been outward and sometimes loud and throwing open my arms. This one feels more inward, slower, a chance to really breathe.
I need a chance to breathe right now. This has been quite the year.
Danny and I are eternally grateful for your comments, questions, and wonderful support. We are still in shock that our cookbook was named one of the best of 2010 by The New York Times. (and proud.) But better yet have been your letters telling us about dishes you made, successes with bread and pizza, the way our story has moved you and given you hope. We will never, ever forget this time.
And these past three weeks, coming at the end of the fullest, most delicious few months of our lives, have been filled with pounds of butter, flours on the counter, and 14 gluten-free cookie recipes. I’ve been thinking about cookies, working on ratios, making flour mixes, baking, photographing, writing recipes, writing essays, answering questions, and going back at it again the next day.
I hope you won’t think I’m complaining if I say I’m exhausted. I’m happy too. Still, I can’t remember the last time I had a day off from work.
Oh that’s right. I do. August 6th. My birthday.
Time to breathe.
So we’ll be taking a break from the blog for the next few weeks. We’ll be back on January 10th with new recipes, videos about techniques, and ideas for you in the kitchen. (It’s all going to be vegetables, whole grains, and green smoothies for awhile. I have no interest in sugar right now.) A real vacation.
Well, not entirely. I’ll still be working — so sorry if you have sent me an email in the past five months and I have not answered — and we’ll both be cooking and baking. We just need a little chance to revive ourselves, to look at food in a new way, and imagine new projects that might be on the horizon.
Mostly, though, I want a little more sleep, some time to read, and the chance to hold Lucy’s hands while she jumps on the bed without thinking of the post I need to publish that day. I don’t want to miss a minute with this kid.
Time to breathe.
Danny and Lu and I hope that all of you reading have a restful holiday, whatever that holiday might be. We hope there is enough food for a great dinner in a warm house with family and friends. We hope you eat cookies you didn’t think you were going to eat again because we published these recipes. (If you did make any of the cookies from the past three weeks, and you had success, would you mind sharing your stories here? I’d love to hear.) We hope you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.
Mostly, I hope that you breathe.
Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2011.