Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hush little baby, don't say a word

Your eyes are half-closed and your hair is curling wild in the steamy sweat you always need to expend before you sleep. I listened to an NPR podcast about flopping yesterday, a basketball term for drawing an offensive foul, and I think of you as you flop across my lap. Some babies settle in for snuggles and go to sleep. You'll settle in for snuggles any time in the waking hours, always holding your hands for up, finding a way into my arms or my lap, laying your keppe on my collar bone in a measure of gratitude before looking around from your eagle's nest. We've been sitting here so long I think I've mentally replayed the entire podcast. Other babies would be asleep by now, but this is your process.

You always twist my ear around to look at the back of my earring, to pinch the structure between your fat fingers, feel its girth, grind it into my occipital plate. It's sharp and I imagine you know that because every night you stab it with your fingerprint so why are you drilling a new hole in my head? I love you, you know, but this is a little impolite. I gave up my beloved hoop earrings with your sisters but neither of them assaulted me nightly with studs and each night I wonder, should this have been the night I just took them out? But sometimes a mama's job is not to let herself be stripped of too much sparkle, and anyway the lovely husband reports that when you get ahold of his unpunctured earlobes at bedtime, you chew on them.

Let's talk about ear etiquette, son. It's not best to peel back other people's ears and inspect behind them. It's not best to chew on them. I call flop.

You can never go to sleep without trying for at least one swan dive. You feign slumber, and just when I think you're asleep, crib-eligible, you bolt up uP UP AND OVer but I'm on to your tricks and I grab you, every time, by the ankles. It's not a rainbow, the armrest, and there's nothing over it. There's no reason for this. I always think of the lesson of those grates farmers place at the edge of fields. I guess cows see the negative space between the bars and don't know how to overcome it. They fear the emptiness and so they won't leave their fields. Cows aren't very smart, son, but they're doing better than you right now. You have to fear the negative space beneath you, just a little bit. We can't keep testing my ankle-catching reflexes like this. One day you're going to kiss that heat vent. Maybe you want to chew it like an earlobe.

You've just learned to wave "hi" and "bye" and you wave to the heat vent, but love, the vent doesn't care if you're coming or going. If vents could talk he'd say Boy! Take advantage of the gift of sleep. But vents don't talk, of course. I know this and the vent knows this, but every night you wave. Am I boring you? I'm not entertaining? I'm not talking because you're supposed to be sleeping. Pin It