Friday, March 20, 2009

An ode to the first day of spring

When E was about the age her sister is today she had a penchant for having her hair stroked while she fell asleep. Like in everything else she does, E was very particular. If my hand was caressing at the wrong angle or rate of speed, she’d reach up, eyes closed, and place her hand on mine to offer her corrections. And so we sat, naptime after naptime, night time after night time, rocking and stroking, rocking and stroking.

She was a baldie forever (we’ve still never cut her hair) so we didn’t do much with pulling her hair up into cute ponytails or clips. There was none to pull. One day she saw me brushing my own hair, though, and she was captivated. I ran it along the top of her head, front to back, just as I had done on my own head. She grabbed the brush from me and pulled it across her scalp, redirecting it to go back to front, back to front, following the fingerpath I traveled each time I put her to sleep. I was trying to finish my own hair so I dug in the little box in her room where we used to throw all her toiletries: the half-empty lanolin tube, the little nail clippers, the baby powder we never used. In the bottom was a brush and comb set we’d received when she was born and never opened. Its little yellow handle fit perfectly in her little fat palm and thus another hair-obsessed girl was born.


From then on whenever we were in her room E would stand in front of her dresser, reaching toward the spot where the toiletries box sat, unh! unh!ing for her little yellow brush. Soon she could say the word: bwush! bwush! and she sounded like a coxswain on the Charles River, calling out a sharp note for each stroke she sent along her scalp.

Bwush!
Bwush!
Bwush!
Bwush!


One weekend morning about exactly this time two years ago we brushed her hair upstairs and then went downstairs for a leisurely breakfast. I know it was this time of year because we were in the first days of a springtime ant infestation. E was in an exuberant food-flinging phase and we blamed the ants on her, remembering that the year before, which had been our first spring in the house, she hadn’t even been sitting up yet, and the unwanted guests weren’t so omnipresent. I made E her favorite cheesy scrambled eggs and yes, lots of them made it to the floor. I don’t remember what happened next but she and I left the kitchen for a few minutes while her daddy tried to clean up, but then something else must have happened, too, and distracted him from finishing the job. When I next walked back into the kitchen E was sitting on the floor next to her high chair. In her hand was the little hand broom that M had been using to pick up her crumbs, and next to her was the dustpan that she had (gleefully, judging from the spray distance) upended. The bristles of the hand broom were covered in golden egg chunks and teeming with happy ants. And as quick as I noticed that, E looked me in the eye and smiled proudly. Then she dragged the eggy anty hand broom repeatedly across her head, coaching herself: bwush! bwush!


The ant populace has waxed and waned in our home since that day, but since we still have E, and we still don’t have a dog, and now we have L, too, we’ve never completely eliminated our tiny cohabitants. I know it’s spring time, though, not because the calendar told me so today, and not because the tulip leaves are poking out of our mulch, but because the ants are back, and they have all apparently told their cousins and grandkids what great hosts we are.

And because last week (she must have been preparing), L began to say the word bwush.
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