Viva Sweet Spring
Abby is a constant. She’s there in the woozy minutes before dawn, nestled in the cradle of my arms while my head is still thick and confused with sleep. We shuffle down the hall and up the stairs and are comforted by the first outlines of blue creeping through the blinds. She’s smiling up at me. I stop to look down at her and she’s looking right back, her eyes wide and stunned with prospects.
She talks to the fan. What must it be like, to have spent nine months, as our pediatrician told us, “in a liquid environment,” where all your insatiable nascent needs were met and encompassed by the fine tuning of one of evolutions most exquisitely calibrated vessels, only to arrive into a world where you’re suddenly dependent on two people of good intentions who are unable, however much they fumble and attempt, to fully understand the outburst of your newfound desires? Only the fan knows. We walk into each room and turn them on their lowest settings, the better to make out the contours of their solacing blades and becalming revolve. Afternoons we’ve lounged on our backs side by side watching them turn while we waved our arms in delight at their rotary charms. I don’t pretend to be learning some secret lesson from the innocence of her untainted infant wisdom—the fan is as dumb an inanimate object as our lamps and toaster, but I am prepared to indulge her for the joy it offers, the solace it provides…all the laughter it sends rippling from her and washing over me.
There are many cries. They vary in duration, intensity, emotional affect and histrionics. They roughly translate as, “I’m hungry,” “I’m tired,” “I’m bored,” “I’m sitting in a deluge of my own uncontrollable making and it truly sucks,” “I’m overwhelmed,” “I’m frightened and so very sad to find that I just woke up in my car seat alone in this dank room and I’m terribly sad—why, oh why did you see fit to abandon me this way like some unoffending gypsy cast asunder and destitute?” While each elicits a pacifying response on our part, it’s that last cry that gets me the most. It’s how when I open the door and allow the hallway light to slant in and brush aside the shadows and crouch down to where my face hovers just a few inches from her own and I see the fullest manifestation of a doleful expression I’ve ever witnessed. It’s how it reverberates and tugs and sends precision pangs tumbling through me. It’s how I pick her up and she curls into me with her legs tucked up and her head warm and pressed against my neck.
A while back I wrote about how having a baby was one of life’s great quotidian events, simultaneously mundane and irresistibly astonishing. We recognize that our own aura of astonishment naturally advances as far as the grandparents, the grandmas in particular, who share and cheer along with the minutia of our excited reports on the latest Abby astonishments. There’s also an abundance of mundane here too. It took us a while to admit that it’s okay for parenthood to occasionally have fits of dullness. There are the doldrums, for example, of Abby asleep in my lap while I sit unable to stir myself to read another line of whatever book or magazine lies before me and a fog settles along my brain. This is when we praise the genius of the iPod shuffle setting. These waves of the mundane are minor struggles and tundra soon gives way to blossom.
Abby has been with us for a little more then three months. Born fast, furious and spindly while most everybody else slept that early December morning, I remember how I first walked over to where the pediatrician and nurse were tending to her with my hands held tentatively behind my back. I remember she was awake, as most newborns are for the first couple of hours, her face turned away from me, and how when I spoke to her she turned her head, her eyes blinking against the heat lamps, and looked right at me. I remember how much I hoped she recognized my voice from all the nights and mornings I had talked to her. "Hello, my little girl," I told her, "I'm so happy to see you. I'm so glad you're finally here."