It was in the dark, isolating, “middle of the night” hours when the thought struck me.  I was lying awake, as the precious newborn began to stir for her next feeding, and my four year old was enduring yet another coughing fit.

“You are only moving foward.  Not backwards.  You’ll never get this time back.”

It scared me to the core of my being.

The husband and I (mostly the husband) have been organizing all of our digital files, predominantly pictures right now.  We are looking at photos and videos from the time we both dove into the digital camera world.  Mine began on the cusp of my college graduation, and his encompassed his European adventures while a bachelor Soldier.  We were in two very different parts of the world, living two very different lives.

Then, our pictures slowly began to mesh.  Duplicates images, taken from different perspectives.  One wonderful day, those perspectives became one perspective when we went from two cameras to one.  From dates and day trips to everyday life together, the subjects changed, too. 

And not long after, they captured Life.  In its truest and tiniest form.  Babies.  Born in the wee hours of mornings, after many hours of work and worry.  Babies.  Who looked to us for security, food, warmth.  Babies.  That turned into toddlers and then preschoolers.

Time moves only in one direction.  Forward.  There is no rewind.  And, more painfully, no pause.  Only forward.

They’ve been so sick this week, the older two.  Fevers, aches, pains, coughs, sneezes.  Screams and thrashing.  Trips to their bedsides every thirty minutes through the night, while feeding a newborn.  Trips to the E.R.  I feel as though I’ve been running between them with thermometers and medicine all week.  Lying awake at night, listening to the cough with the horrible truth that I cannot do anything to alleviate their discomfort.  Focusing only on what I can handle–making it through one day.  Praying they’ll be better tomorrow.

Last Friday, I celebrated 5 amazing, blessed years to my wonderful husband.  Even a year off from that day, I pictured in my head wonderful plans.  Five years is a milestone.  A small one, but a milestone nonetheless.  I was so excited.  We had reservations at a very nice restaurant.  I had a pretty dress picked out.  Presents bought.  Plans made.

As I raced through the week taking care of sick babes, my Friday night went from a much anticipated break to the realization that, sadly, we were going to be staying home.

But, despite the setbacks, it was beautiful.  Quiet, relaxed.  Still a celebration.

Because I won’t get this back.  These moments with my husband on the couch, just talking, will never be lived again.  Those moments smoothing back matted hair from a feverish and sweaty tiny forehead will never be present again.  Only past.  The countless trips to the bassinet to once again reinsert the pacifier into that little mouth.  Past.  Little becomes big.  Small grows larger and larger.  Babies become toddlers become kids.  And then they grow up.

And all we will have left are those pictures.  Those videos.  Those tiny views into a world, into a present that has become a past.  No more baby smells.  No more raspy, sickly I love you, Mommys in the middle of the night.  No more stolen hugs and kisses from sleeping little ones on the way to bed at night.  No more temperature readings, pleadings to take just one more sip, demands to stop fighting–again.  No more laughs and giggles, smiles and grins from tiny faces.

So, today, as tired as I am, as exhausted as I am, I find joy in the seemingly endless trips into their bedroom to stave off more coughing, to love them through the fever, warm them through the chills.  I treasure the hours spent by their side, comforting them through the aches and pains.

Because someday, this will all be gone.  All I will have left are the memories.  The Past.

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