Wed 18 Oct 2006
the house is quiet.
er…the house is asleep, at least. the snoring beside me and the purring from the corner chair are both quiet and rhythmic, comforting. the rain taps at our tin roof. the furnace drones on, two floors down.
an occasional peep squawks from the baby monitor as a small body tries to practice rolling over in its sleep. the two soft cylinders of that fine but nameless positioner thingy that keeps babies nominally in place in their beds are all that guard against Oscar’s nightly transition into a heap at the bottom of his crib. as said transition tends to result in him scaring himself awake, loudly, i wish multitudes of blessings and a watertight patent upon the wise folk who invented the thingies. and i wish O sweet, stationary dreams.
he will not be stationary too much longer now, my baby boy. he is about to launch himself into the world under his own steam, and the mechanics of how are the major focus of his days, these days. he rolls, though still erratically…and laughs every time he finds himself suddenly turtled on his back. when placed on his belly, he crawls round in a pivot like a little clock, crop circles of drool marking his swath. this migration creates crying, not laughing…apparently his goals are more linear than artistic.
we’ll be hightailing it out to buy those baby gates any day now, i think.
it will be strange, after all these months of knowing with confidence that Oscar can be located wherever Oscar was last put down, to find him suddenly mobile. funny how many invisible umbilical cords remain long after birth, still linking us. funny how bittersweet they are to sever, too, these vestiges of our once-vital physical connection. soon, he will be able to walk away from me. this baffles me…it is beyond my imagination. and yet, like all the milestones he’s already sailed past, it will soon simply be normal. Oscar the independent. such is the journey we are on, i suppose. what wonder.
but while O is a wild adventurer by day, at least in effort, by night he is still very much the same magical, feral, snuggly creature he has been since birth. i have just left him, laid him down after his “dream feed”…we are Baby Whisperer adherents in this regard, and give him his last feed at night without really waking him. this too, i will miss when he outgrows it.
the dream feed is a spy mission, of sorts. i sneak into Oscar’s room by the light of the nightlight, trying not to trod on the squeakier floorboards. i scoop the warm, wriggly little body from his crib, and we settle in the rocking chair room, me sssshhhing gently, him rooting. i nurse him – we’re still hanging on on that front – but usually bring a warmed bottle in as well. my milk supply never fully rebounded from the pill experiment, and if he comes to the end of the milk, he wakes up. so i bring plenty. and then, we rock, and he feeds, and i spy, with my little eye.
in the almost-dark, i see an impossibly round head, slant shadows of eyes, and tiny hands that flutter white and warm along my skin. his complexion, still unmarked by the scars we all get from simply living, reflects the light. with his face relaxed, he is ethereal as a baby alien. when he roots, though, he is fierce, a suckling pig feeding with his whole being.he smells milky, and faintly sweaty, like bedclothes. he grabs at my shirt, my flesh. he lets out satisfied little sighs. he grunts, and i shhh, and wrap my hand around a wide, fat little foot encased in sleeper, and i try to commit the scene to memory in surreptitious photographs of the mind. this is my baby. this is what i’ve been given. we are here. this is now.
the first time i read Robert Munsch’s beautiful tear-jerker Love You Forever, i was a college student, volunteering in a local kindergarten in hopes of convincing the Bachelor of Education acceptance committee that i was fit to work with children. i picked the book randomly from a shelf. it is, for those of you who may have been living under a children’s literature rock these past fifteen or twenty years, the story of spy journeys like mine. a mother sneaks into her sleeping son’s room to rock him, in his infancy, then in his childhood and teenager years, and throughout his life. in her old age, it is he who goes to her and cradles her. a simple refrain of abiding love between parent and child runs through the book:
i’ll love you forever
i’ll like you for always
as long as i’m living
my baby you’ll be.
i made it about three pages into the story that first time i read it before i burst out bawling. kindergarten students regarded me hesitantly. undaunted, i kept reading…and collapsed into complete emotional pudding. “i’ll love you forever, i’ll like you for always…” i choked, beaming, tears and snot streaming down my face, “as long as i’m living, my baby you’ll be.” i thought it was a truly lovely book. the children, who must now be teenagers somewhere, likely thought it was the scariest thing that had ever happened to them. one of them, dear child, did eventually fetch me a Kleenex.
i have never yet successfully made it to the end, aloud, without crying.
but beauty is often close to sorrow, and to tears. i learned last summer, listening to a CBC special in the dark wake of days after Finn died, that Munsch actually wrote the book after he and his wife lost two children to stillbirth. i think of Finn, and those children in whose memory Love You Forever was written, a lot these nights while i sit rocking Oscar in my arms.
we have our babies, as babies, for such a short time. even the healthy ones, the ones we are blessed enough to assume we’ll see through into their childhoods, and teenage years, and adulthood…the time we get, as parents, to sneak into their rooms and scoop them up and rock them is finite…and not nearly long enough.
the word “baby” in Munsch’s refrain, i think, is spy code…it means precious one; beloved. that is, so far as i can figure, the meaning of the slightly odd story of the mommy who stalks her adult son’s sleep – just that no matter how big babies may grow, or even how short their lives and growth may sadly be – they remain with us, loved always as they are in those first moments.
and as long as i’m living, i’ll remember Oscar’s sweet round face in the dark tonight. i’ve got the mental pictures.