Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hey You

It just occurred to me that the reason Isla is so vocal is because she knows that if she doesn’t make noise we might forget she is there. She’ll be sitting in her little bouncy chair on the kitchen table, or swinging slowly back and forth in her swing, looking nervously around for us, these faces that entertain her. And we, her family, are all too enrapt with the tasks at hand, cooking dinner, playing make believe, bringing in wood and building the fire, to notice her. It kind of reminds me of that vulnerable feeling of being alone at a party and finding yourself just outside of a group of chattering people. You try to insert yourself-- get "taken in" per se-- without seeming too desperate. There is that awkward moment when you are just floating out there, smiling nervously and eavesdropping. If you fail to bridge the gap in a matter of minutes, you have to just suck it up and move on to the next group and hope nobody noticed you standing there like a fool.

I need not worrry about Isla's social skills. Or maybe I do. She has devised a foolproof solution to being ignored. She screams, real loud. Out of nowhere this sweet, patient little girl will let out a high-pitched, baby Teradactyl screech and all heads turn to look at her. Mission accomplished. Then she smiles and coos as if to say, “Just checking to see if I really do exist.”

The plight of the second born. She is so appreciative of the smallest amount of attention. And if you really stop to talk to her, read to her, stroke her cheek or, better yet, give her a baby chair massage, she is your slave. Just showing her a picture book makes her arms wave about wildly and little gurgly sounds come from her throat. And the chair massage elicits baby ecstasy. She stretches her arms up over her head to let my hands slide underneath her shoulder blades, arches her back and flashes her gums. As I work my hands down her back, describing to her what I am doing all the way down to her toes, which I squeeze one by one, she rocks her head wildly from side to side.

It seems so rare that I take, or make, the time to do this. That I actually let myself stop for a second and focus, really focus on the blossoming little human in my midst. In those fleeting moments when I can resist the pull of domestic minutia and surrender I am always duly rewarded. I don't get that kind of full-body reaction from the clothes I fold or newspaper I stare at or from the dishes I wash, or for that matter, from Ian when I stroke his stubbly face.

And then there's her newfound laugh. She has this little laugh, so suppressed, like air escaping a balloon in small spurts. It comes from somewhere deep in her chest and she makes you work for it. Usually fake sneezes do the trick but sometimes I have to resort to vigorous, under-the-chin tickling.

I think we are formally out of the murky forest that is a baby's first three months. Isla has developed a new flavor of cuteness. She can sit up and lean back a bit when we hold her. She turns her head and rests her cheek against my jawbone and looks around quietly in my arms. The feel of her, so substantial and strong, so safe in her high perch, is pure baby bliss.

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