You have the most wonderful smile. Really a number of them. One, a little shy, is mostly with your eyes. You bring your lips together, make a line of your mouth, but smile around the edges. Another’s just a trace of an upturned mouth. Another I can see best from behind when the balls of your cheeks appear – a smile, which from the other side is a classic grin. Then my favorite – a smile that’s almost all eyes. You square your mouth – though it’s totally clear it’s a smile and just sparkle. Somehow, your eyes are their grayest blue in these smiles and your face is so open – it’s an unusual smile that reminds me of Raetha’s, You’re sitting without any trouble now and stood – mostly I think by accident on your own with Ruth today. Recently you’ve discovered animals – as distinct from, but as delightful as, other children. Today we went to the zoo, in the hopes of showing you more than cats, dogs squirrels. Like giving you toys when there’s tupperware around, this proved misguided. Not that you didn’t like the animals (you definitely registered the flamingos, gorillas, elephants and snakes) but they were in the end certainly no more interesting than Max, the Shepherds dog or the boxer at Ruth’s.
We borrowed a walker for you, which leaves you free, now that you’ve gotten the hang of it to explore. Textures are especially appealing – the hamper, a zipper on Nana’s sewing kit, but motion, too, is thrilling.
So much – you love Uncle David, make your “ah haah” noise of approval whenever he’s around. He’s very loving with you, playing with you, holding you, helping me interpret what you want. You were enthralled with his arena soccer game today. Standing up on the edge of the rink that forms the arena, gripping the net which protects the spectators with your hands and hooting. You often pat now when you are happy and reach for David whenever he’s near.
I like watching the games that develop between you and others. Grandpa plays a game with his baseball cap – first on his head, then on yours that pleased you yesterday when you were very tired and sad. You were crying and crying in my arms on the bird walk – so much that I resorted to almost labor-esque breathihng – a panting sigh, which soothed you. Then he played with you. First you smiled, gamely, through tears, and then engaged smiling.
[Side notes for the entry: walking, reaching for me, turning to me in bed, pointing at the helicopter, ouch] We’re in LA, your second long plane trip accomplished. Today it seemed, you crossed enormous physical and psychological thresholds – which, compounded by jet lag – left you somewhat fragile but so very adept. Most amazing to me was walking. I held your hands and you stepped across the kitchen floor. Big steps – starting with your left knee cocked way up, then reaching out a more vertical keep on trucking followed by bringing your right foot up even. You go a few steps, then you crane your head to look at me.
Things – you – move so quickly. You’re sitting up now with a straight, straight back – in command as you reach for this and that and completely unperturbed when you tip – as you always eventually do either back or to one side (though if you fall to the side you pass it off as a move to get onto your stomach). Everyday you’re more and more in control of your movements. Sitting upright in the stroller, surveying your increasingly large domain. Your latest discovery: your hair, which you tug at, sometimes so resolutely that I worry you’ll pull it out (your remind me of Steve Graff’s only being able to think if he’s tugging at his forelock), especially when you’re nursing. Your hands are lovely, soft, yet solid things, gentle and purposeful, as they range over my chest, your hair, my necklace, the air as you nurse. Your body when you nurse is not at rest, but active, ranging, though it’s not clear what for. It seems that for you to fall asleep you need to fight your way through a physical barrier. You kick, push with your feet, rear your head back, and then you’re gone. Again you were medicine tonight. George Mosely was sad, fighting depression and he came over and spent the afternoon and evening with us. You let him feed you, and like you did when Papa was sick in the hospital – beamed at him each time he sought contact. You’re a lovely girl.
Over the past week or so you’ve become much more purposeful. Just now, for instance, I watched you work to maneuver the tag of a toy (your favorite part of almost all toys) into your mouth for a good five minutes. It means – this increasing competence, this increasing willfulness – that you are mad if we take a toy away from you – even for a moment – far harder to distract.
We were at Camp this weekend with Gram and Papa and Sal and the boys and Rae and the girls. A number of times, and really for the first time, though there’ve been hints – you wanted me or your Dad. Poor Gram., She had you when you woke up from a nap and screamed ’til I took you. I told Sally – I never quite expected that you’d want me preferentially. I knew you’d love me, knew other kids love their moms, but to experience your real wanting me (rather, I guess, than needing me) was lovely – though I wanted you, too, to know how much Grammy loves you.
When you play in your exersaucer now you’re so strong. You barely lean on the seat at all, but stand tall.
It’s so much fun watching your improving dexterity and coordination. I wonder if I’ll be there and actually see it when you realize that your hands work so much better than your feet that it would probably be best just to focus all your efforts on the hands (now you just use whichever extremity is closest). It was so nice to be at Camp with you, I’m really looking forward to the summer and swimming in the lake. You walked and walked with Kayla in the snuggly and you both had a grand time checking out the surrounds of Camp. You love walking as much as your Ma.
I’m only working 30 hours a week now so we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other, I’m happy about that, but already I’m thinking how hard it will be going back to full time (maybe I won’t!). You snooze like a champ in the car now. It used to be that you couldn’t cross town without some major distress, and you railed against stopping for traffic lights worse than your Grandpa Champ used to. Now we worry that if we take too long a trip you won’t be able to sleep that night ’cause you sleep so soundly in the car.
I found a note today that I wrote to Gram thanking her for her unfailing, non-contingent love and support when I told her Deb was expecting, she was instantly thrilled, but she let out how hard it had been to really be positive about circumstances when she thought we were “going it alone.,” but she managed to. She really was all behind what she thought was our (Deb’s and my) “final” choice. She never asked why we didn’t have a child, she never prodded us to, never even “commented” on her own views on the subject. I marvel how she managed to be so supportive when I see her now with you…The pure foolish joy she gets watching me change your diaper or watching Deb nurse you, and the gaze she has for you when you are in her arms, and you can tell she knew it would be like this, this wonderful. How much she loved (loves) Deb and I to have been willing to readily sacrifice so much to allow us to make our own decision, even when she knew we would be wrong to do it, even when she clearly knew what it would cost her. Such respect and tolerance of others…her mother was like that too…and your mother, how she understands her clients on the street (and how they both seem to understand me), it’s so nice to love and be loved honestly. I hope you inherit that talent.
You’ve been waking up and crying early in the night, sometimes several times. When you wake, we pick you up and you’re almost always asleep before you can get your head to our shoulders. But try to put you back in your crib and you’re awake and crying. I know the feeling of just wanting someone near, the comfort of a body, a person, especially an awake one, who hasn’t let go, holding you, taking care while you sleep. I want you to sleep, and to be ok on your own, but I do think I understand.
I don’t think that it’s so much that you’re getting stronger, but that you’re increasingly able to focus your energy.
You’ve learned to scrape, brushing at surfaces with your nails, in order, I think, to pick up two dimensional objects, or to see if there are any two dimensional objects lying flat to pick up.
When you nurse, your face, eyes closed, features flat except for tongue and jaw, your hands and arms move with a sometimes herky-jerky life of their own. Unrestrainable, like the milk were activating specific nerves which have you tugging my arm down by grabbing my finger, clutching my shirt, my (other) nipple. It’s such strong action, though, inconsistent with your peaceful, contented look. When your arm settles, I know you’re close to sleep.
Today you got much more proficient at turning from front to back. We were at Grannymom’s and, though for the whole time you slept I had you wedged between pillows, when it was almost time to go I moved the pillow just to look at you and then went into G-mom’s bedroom. When Daddy came in a few minutes later from getting the car, you’d turned over onto your belly and were right at the edge of the bed…
…smiling up at me. You smile a lot. You smile at us when you wake up, you smile at me when I get home from work, every time. You smile at everyone (your Mom had to advise me to stop telling people you smiled at everyone and let them each believe that they could be the special object of your happy attentions, why bust their bubble? mom mused, why not let the whole world believe that each and every one of them has some special exclusive connection with Nell). It’s such a beautiful smile, so simple and bright it seems impossible that it could be unaffecting. Yet, the other day, sitting at a table next to the door in a cafe, you were busy beaming at, and getting adulation from, everyone who happened through. When an elderly man, short and therefore closer to your eye-level, came in, and rather than walk briskly by, stopped right next to you to survey the cafe. A prefect target. Perfect. You beamed with all your might…but nothing happened, he only continued surveying. You beamed again, harder, and, as if in response, he headed off to the far side of the cafe. You were confused, you looked at mom, she was crushed by your confusion and picked you up for a consoling cuddle and returned you to your stroller. The effect passed. You resumed your hostess role, greeting each newcomer, brightening strangers’ days with your special Easter smile (some people just don’t want to be brightened, not your fault).
Thursday night, while your Dad finished up some paper work, we walked McLean’s lovely grounds on the first convincing spring night of the year, 60 degrees and a full moon (a blue one, since there was no full moon in February). You were happy enough, walking in the Baby Bjorn and singing, but about half way we stopped to nurse outside the McLean library. As usual, when you were done you re-emerged, dripping milk from the sides of your mouth, grinning and ready to play. Happily, a group of women was walking into the library and you caught their eye with a huge grin (from my end, looking down at you in the snuggly, all I see is the little round tops of your cheeks moving up and in, and then register the pleasure on the face of whomever you’ve bestowed your smile on). They stopped to talk for a moment, you standing on my legs, and they they moved on. You pivoted to watch them go and your face fell, turning quizzical and disappointed. Where did they go? Why weren’t they staying to talk? It made me sad for you – probably sadder than you – such sweet-hearted interest, met by connection, but transient, non-enduring connection. You’re lucky for all the people who love you, but the world has its disappointments, links that don’t quite join, welcomes that are declined. I wish I could shield you from them.