Archives for the month of: August, 2011

Many, many times, we’ve looked at pictures of our daughter while she lay, sat, played, or slept right in front of us. Still photos hold a charm separate from live babies: they slow the rush of time and let you hold a moment in your hand (or on your camera). To get one, though, the baby must be still long enough to take a photo, and that’s not always the case.

Here are some of my favorite pictures that I haven’t been able to take:

Her animal imitations. With a big smile on her face, she bunches her fingers together and touches then lifts the tips of them across her chest. While she knows many animals and their sounds (cow – moo; horse – neigh; cat – mao; dog – [insert panting sound]; pig – oi), she makes her frog (and rabbit and kangaroo) hopping motion across her little chest, just the way my mother taught her. “Hop, hop, hop!” I say, and she does, with great glee. She’ll also pound her chest like a gorilla (also courtesy of Nana) and peck like a chicken, courtesy of her daddy. That one comes out when she sees a picture of a chicken or, strangely, at night once we’ve read books. She’ll pull the pillow to her and peck, peck, peck her face into it, then lift her beatific face to me. If the sun shone as brightly as her face, we’d all go blind, even without looking directly.

Her intent reading face. Whether she’s reading Baby Animals or Animal Orchestra or Kitten’s First Full Moon or a book of French verbs or Hungarian cooking, she looks searchingly. She studies the page, looking at the pictures or the words, if there are no pictures. Does she see something like The Matrix, letters streaming and incomprehensible, waiting for everything to fall into place? Does she enjoy the heft of a book in her lap and the comfort of the motion of flipping the pages? She looks at books as intently as she’s ever looked at anything – until a camera distracts her. I’ve tried to capture this one, but a camera breaks the spell.

Signing for milk. This one’s fading but insistent when it comes. It lasts a short while, and the milking motion, which is a rather ridiculous sign unless you are really pulling on a cow’s teat, combined with the deadpan seriousness of her face (yes, Mama, I mean milk and I mean now!), makes for a comical pairing.

Signing for potty. I just love that this one’s gone on for so long, although she doesn’t sign for it as often as I’d like, and she’ll often sign while I’m driving and not able to see, unless I catch a glimpse in the mirror. Another sign unphotographed, another unmarked milestone.

Quick kissing. She’ll often give three or four air kisses in a row, sometimes accompanied by the hand gesture for blowing kisses, sometimes just letting them float on the air, drifting across the space between us (or her and the cats, or her and Daddy, or her and the woman behind the register at the Piggly Wiggly, or her and the sofa…she’s full of love, this one is). “Boo!” she’ll say, and quick kiss. I swear they become solid real kisses because I feel their warmth.

Sleeping. This is not wholly true because I do have photos of her sleeping from months ago. Now I feel like I’m the guardian of her sleep, and part of my protection plan is keeping the camera, with its light for focusing and its loud shutter click, out of the bedroom while she’s sleeping. She’ll cozy up to the crib bars, head pressed against the slats like she could squeeze through if she tried hard enough. Other times she pulls her blanket over herself, as I’ve said before. She still curls up like a bean, feet crossed sometimes, arms tucked under her and between her legs. Tonight she dropped to sleep in her carseat, looking like a little frog, with bent knees turned out and her hands together over the carseat buckle. In bed with us, she’ll often turn ninety degrees, head butted up against one of us, feet pressed into the ribs of the (unlucky) other. Sometimes she lies on her side, head splayed back as if in mid-laugh, affirming her dreams or denying her nightmares. Perhaps my favorite, as described by someone else in something else I once read, is when she sleeps like a starfish. Arms, legs, and head each juts in a different direction, ensuring that one part of the bed doesn’t really feel any better – or worse – than any other part. Even in a queen sized bed, she manages to make room for three a tight squeeze. Not that I have photographic proof of this – but I wish I did.

Cameras help us to capture fleeting moments, but sometimes even the camera is too slow, and life is too fleeting. When that happens, I try to remember that, much as I might like to have photos as reminders, the moments themselves are the reason for the photos. The fact that they happened should be – and is – enough.

She’s nearing sixteen months old. How does it go by so quickly, and when will I tire of thinking that? Not yet. Not nearly yet.

Even at this age, hair seems to be a big deal. Because she hasn’t had much, we’ve often heard that she’s a “cute little fella” or been asked how old he is. We don’t mind, and I don’t think she does, either. Hair and gender aren’t related, and we’re pretty sure she’ll have more, at least one of these years. Maybe it’s happening now; when friends who’ve been away for a few weeks see her, they say things like, “Her face seems longer,” or “She’s looking more like you,” or “She has more hair!” I suppose that’s true: it comes from the back, like a rooster’s comb, lofting above her head. While she does not have a full head of thick hair, what she has gives her some extra height. It reminds me of Conan O’Brien, but instead of the front taking on a life of its own, hers comes from the swirly cowlick in the back, like a wave. One day it may crash down over her forehead, but for now, it hovers like a springboard, sproinging in response to the breeze or her head nodding or shaking.

While she could nod her head “yes” before she could shake her head or say “no,” “no” has, as with so many others, become a favorite word. Many times she’s touched an outlet cover, shaking her head and saying, “No no.” Sometimes we’ll find her saying “no” authoritatively to herself, drawing the one syllable out into something that could be preached from a pulpit, mouth round, the “o” long.

But thankfully, it’s not the only word we’ve heard. She identifies and sometimes can name body parts, including ears, eyes, nose (“no-no”), mouth, belly button, elbow, knee, and toe. She’s started saying “go” after hearing it over and over in Go, Dog. Go!: P.D. Eastman’s Book of Things That Go. Much like “no,” it’s not a syllable so much as a chant, a cry lifted above the crowd at a soccer game as the ball enters the net just above the goalie’s fingers in the time added at the end of regulation play. “Gooooooooooooooooooooooo”(al). She’s said “hard” after talking about the floor and the deep freezer, which her head has experienced first-hand, and “tight” after I squeezed her. We get “Mama” and “Dada” a lot, my favorite instances being upon her awakening. Reaching out and caressing our faces, she turns to me and says, “Mama!” and to him and says, “Dada!” in a tone so joyful you’d think she’d just gotten her birthday presents – and that they were exactly what she’d hoped for. I hope we continue to be a gift to her.

She can identify many things in books, even things we haven’t pointed out but have said, like “tuba” and “bus driver” and “mouse.” She’s a wonder, this one.

Lately, she’s made some good faces. She can do a fishy face, although it’s not always on command. Her newest is akin to a toothless old man: she wraps her lips around her teeth and then opens her mouth in an approximation of surprise. The effect is not attractive but comical, and we laugh every time, which only encourages her to make it more.

Today, she added to her skills again: she blinked. And she blinked again on command, a leisurely blink that conveyed her intention.

And that’s how I feel about her childhood. Recently, we had dinner with a father of two teenage girls, and we asked him if he was surprised that they were so old. “No,” he said. Startled, I didn’t know where to take the conversation from there. No? How could you be anything but surprised? What I do know is that these first almost sixteen months have gone by in the blink of an eye. Who knows what I’ll miss if I close my eyes for longer than that? I’ll leave the blinking to my little one. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find that I’m the one with her eyes propped open. I don’t want to miss a thing.