Watching her unfold and develop a personality is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience . To see the glimmers of her personality break through the larval baby stage as she transforms into a infant, makes every sleepless night worth it.
I have a confession. I am not one of those mothers that goes crazy for all things baby. Having been around many children my whole life, I’m generally not that into little babies, age 2 and up please. I rawther hate the multiplying sprawl of various baby paraphernalia clashing with the decor in our living room. The early development toys in the most garish mixing of primary colors make my eyeballs itch. I dislike the ubiquitous children’s books about puppies, balls and sunshine. I’ve always been drawn to stories with a little darkness. My first favorites were the orignal Grimm’s fairy tales, where death sometimes occurs and the Princess doesn’t always get the Prince. Having stated that, I love reading to Willow but at this stage in her development, I could read a car manual and, with the right inflection, convince her it was a great story.
So bearing that in mind, I literally can’t convince myself to read her baby books. Instead, I have chosen excerpts from my favorite books and poems. Passages that, to me, illustrate the beauty of words and language. We’ve read Pablo Neruda, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some Shel Sylverstine and Sylvia Plath. Two or three weeks ago Willow and I had a really rough day. Crying for hours, spit up and a slight fever (I suspect the teething goblin is visiting our house. A goblin, because no fairy could be this cruel). It was a rather unusually hot day here, getting into the upper 90’s ( this is where I invite my east coast friends to make fun of me for being a weather wimp now). All of this adds up to a cranky baby and an even more frazzled Momma.
In a desperate attempt to get her to calm down I grabbed one of my favorite books, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and let it fall open. Not surprisingly it opened to “Song of Myself” one of my all time favorite poems. I picked it up and began to read while the baby continued to fuss on my chest. But as I read on, clinging to the rhyme and meter of the poem, my voice broke into the rhythm and Willow watched me, eyes wide. I read on as she watched me. We both lost ourselves in the words until I came to this part of the poem*, when without cause or warning, my daughter burst forth into hysterical laughter for the very first time. She laughed so hard that I began to laugh with her. When we finally stopped I began to read again, only to have the whole thing start over. We continued like that, reading and laughing, until I made it to the end of the poem, slightly teary from laughter and the weight of the day completely dissolved, leaving in its absence a moment I will never forget. Is it just me, or do moments like these have a way of happening just when you think you can’t possibly go on? And then something like this happens and for a moment, every single hardship that is parenting is suddenly not so hard? I made this for the two of us, so she will always remember (and I will never forget) the story of her laughter. ( you can check out closeups on my flickr album, linked at the bottom of the blog)
*I too am not a bit tamed… I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadowed wilds.
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air… I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good help to you nevertheless
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”