November 23, 1998

I’m starting late, Nellie – so many details and moments, I guess, that it’s hard to put pen to paper. Wondering, too, about the tone I want – hope for. Writing to you, certainly, but not sure how.

You’ve already changed a lot – grown, become so much more familiar. Things I’ve loved: the feel of your fingers brushing against my skin, feeling like you felt inside me, with odd little, gentle, sweet tickles. Your peaceful, beautiful face when you’re asleep. Translucent lids over large eyes and an exquisitely fine line from your cheek bone to your chin. The funny way you bob for my breast, arching your eyebrows, craning your neck, though you’re already better at it, more self-assured. The pleasure your Dad gets in watching you stretch.

Mostly what you’ve needed has been accessible so far – food, a cuddle and it’s remarkable when you look at me, make contact, since you are so much a physical being now – with the contact you need far more visceral, tactile, than the emotional needs (with a small n, compared to your capital N ones). I worry, though, about what you need. How much you need me – how much you need my presence, how much my directed attention, how much a sense of ease and surety that your parents can manage, are competent, are safe. You have a little lopsided grin which may not yet be a grin and a range of serious faces which are a treat. One is thoughtful: very still, with an attentive gaze and closed mouth, face symmetric. Another is funnier, more quizzical, with pursed lips in a tiny “O.” When you cry, and are really angry, you turn bright red, arch your back and neck and – after holding your breath – cry in gasps which make me pull the car to the side of the road to hold you – do anything to make you happier. I wonder if you remember being unhappy once you’re fed or held or rocked, or whether that all comes later. Sometimes I’m grateful when you go to sleep – for some adult time, a rest, a chance to pick up. But I’d give up everything for when you wake with that serious look on your face and play with me, gazing, following my face or my waving fingers as I move.

6.9.99

Among the many recent (apparent*) firsts, a cold you’ve had for 4 or 5 days now. Mostly you’ve been in good (if somewhat subdued) spirits, but your hoarse cry, especially in the night, is more than your dad and I can bear. Today I am a little sick, with achy joints and a slow head, and I hope you’re not (but suspect you are) suffering the same.

As recently as 6 weeks ago it was almost impossible to read to you since you were driven, almost invariably, to suck on the book. Now your relation to books and paper is more interesting. Your favorite toy, except perhaps for your yellow horn [drawing], is a set of 4×8-ish highly laminated playing cards. You take the card in both hands, turning and folding it slowly with intense concentration and delicacy, as though it were many-faceted. You’ve been known to do this for up to 1/2 an hour and now have extended that mode of investigation to your Dad’s paperback books, lying on your back and examining them not so much with pleasure as with satisfaction. Your own books are a slightly different story…

5.31.2003 (trip to Paris 5.31.2003-6.8.2003)

At the airport, you’ve been wonderful. Excited by all the activity, at the prospect of the trip. Milo Schindler, according to his mother, survives in Paris on bread, butter and chocolate, and you’re prepared to follow suit.

We arrived without incident, and were met at CDG by Abby. Faced with nearly equal RER and cab fares, we hopped in a taxi to 149 Belleville, our really quite wonderful home in the 19th. To reach the apartment you pass through a coded door flush to a sidewalk, through the entranceway and courtyard of the apartment building that abuts the street, through a door at the rear of the courtyard and, then along an interior walkway that feels straight out of Charade (actually the remake), past several small bungalows, to the left and finally our house, straight ahead and to the right which runs along with the walkway, yard on the interior, house on the exterior side with an gated garden and a set of 5 foot swinging windows opening out of the kitchen into the common space defined by the walkway. The apartment is really wonderful. Concrete floors below, wood up, sparsely but carefully furnished, with an eat in kitchen, living room downstairs, a bedroom. study/foyer, bath up, each distinguished by the large double windows and the bathroom by a deep tiled bath with side faucets.

Unable at first to get in the house, we left our bags and took the Metro (much to your’s and Daddy’s excitement) to the 15th to the Parc Arche Citroen and to retrieve Abby’s bag. All well enough, but the heat and a few wrong turns, and a message from the land lord to hurry led us again to a cab, past the Sorbonne, Ile de la Cite, etc. and home, where all the heat of the day and the long trip were made up by a tour around our immediate neighborhood, which includes – literally across the street , 2 patisseries, a cafe/honey (miel) shop, a wonderful cheese shop, and a very pleasant seeming wine shop (all on a metro line). True often in Paris, I guess, but contributing to a delicious lunch of bageutte and cheese. Late afternoon at the flea market and walking around Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th. You feel down the steps – an awful sound- and got a terrible bruise on your bum and both your thighs.

6.15.99

[Continued from 6.6.99] …Mostly you want to play with them, but if you’re tired, you’ll now sometimes sit right through and, with Big Red Barn, you seem to recognize the dog and cat (your favorite animals) on the page that describes them (though we have to substitute “woof woof” for the book’s “bow wow”), placing your hand, for instance, on top of the dog.

More milestones: a second (bottom) tooth and now a third, just barely visible up top. Lots, even in the space of a week, more mobility. Something like crawling up on all fours, sometimes [drawing] like this, and sometimes [drawing] on your knees. If the former case you collapse forward, back on to your stomach [drawing], having gained a few inches. In the latter, though you still have the sense of sequencing your movements, you tend to get at least 3 limbs moved forward, sometimes rolling on a still-folded fourth (leg) along. Then, between rolling and what seems eventually to be willing yourself forward, you get to your objective…

[Dad]

…but you do persevere, especially after a ball. You have a large orange one and a small blue one. Both have a tendency to roll away at the first touch following an arduous trek, but you don’t seem to mind – I guess that’s the game. You don’t really do much with the balls when you do secure them & chasing them does seem more satisfying. The mobility is such serendipitious [sic] learning & the possibility of discovering a key move this way is obviously rare. At this time your crawl involves drawing your left leg up in a right-angle configuration as if you were going to sit and then lurching forward by extending the right leg back and arms forward. It works, but poorly. I tried to “walk” you through the correct steps with hand-over-hand, but it just pissed you off. I think the first crawl is on tape.

6.6.99

Daddy and I on our way to Montreal – you with Zoe and Neil. So busy a couple of weeks. For you most of all. On the 4th your first tooth broke through, just a nub, but there for real and yesterday, at Elizabeth Richardson’s wedding, you stood in the beautiful blue and yellow knit dress Aunt Sam made you rock steady for – I think- about 15 seconds, like you’d been doing it all your life. And that’s just the last couple of days. So many things please you – animals (especially dogs), birds, a paperback book, a toy, taking a bath, walking. When most excited, you bounce and flap your hands, saying “ah, ah, ah,” with your eyes so wide open it’s a wonder the squirrel or truck or toy you’re looking at doesn’t get drawn right in. You’ve got so many different expressions now: one of my favorites is when we’re walking, you holding on to my fingers, or when you’re in the stroller, you lean your head way back and grin with delight at the unexpected perspective. When we’re standing, what I see first is your cheeks, like little rolls, rising up to your eyes in what I know, but can’t see, is a smile, and then you tip back, asking to have your neck tickled. Your quizzical look when you’ve dropped something, say over the side of your excersaucer – just on the edge of knowing exactly how objects actually behave but still with the remnants of believing, or not understanding enough not to believe, that objects can go anywhere. A sly smile – you draw your lips in, so your mouth is just a line, turned up at one edge and smiling out of the corner of one averted eye.

You love to touch faces, pull hair, grab noses (if there aren’t any – preferred – glasses on those noses), teeth, lips and you pull with impressive (that is to say sometimes painful) strength. But you also touch with a gentleness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, especially when you’re nursing and your soft, soft, cool, compact, sweet hands brush against my bare skin.

When we’re together for the day we usually go to the park, where you love to watch the bigger kids and play in the sand. You really try to talk to people, turning square towards them, looking right at them and calling. When bigger kids, as they sometimes do, respond, you’re delighted. If not, you look momentarily disappointed and move on.

5.19.99

In the early mornings when you wake to nurse, you reach for me, half awake, turning, seeking the breast. It’s an instinctual-looking motion, needy but tender too.

Wonderful times with you now are at the start and close of each day – in the morning before we get out of bed you lie on your back and talk and smile – reaching for Daddy’s nose, my hair, grinning at the prospect of the day ahead. In the evening it’s at supper time. Your appetite is impressive – last night a whole bowl of rice cereal, a jar of of sweet potatoes and a half a jar of applesauce – and you take such pleasure in it. Pausing to smile at Gram, look out at the lake and the leaves, pound the table with exuberance.

You may – the jury’s out – have clapped yesterday. Papa clapped and you brought your hands together. Not a glimmer since, though.

5.18.99

Dad’s entry:

It seems you are always happy to cook with me, face-forward in the snugglie, waving your arms like a frantic concert-master. I wonder if you actually think you’re causing the mincing and mashing + stirring with all your furious arm movements. You’ve never gotten to taste any of this stuff (your food comes from breasts + jars). I keep waiting for you to turn and look up at me with a “what the heck are you doing?” stare. But since cooking has as much purpose and meaning in it for you as almost everything else (like facing the opposite way from how we face in the car, or turning the big light in the sky out when we are both home, but leaving it on when one or both of us goes away) you join in the cooking frenzy with relish (salsa?) and appear to enjoy it as much as anything we do together & we do it a lot.