We’ve talked before, I know, how G’s favorite things to love on aren’t blankies or beloved stuffed animals They’re ears, mine and the lovely husband’s. When he’s tired and asks to be picked up, he doesn’t nestle in to my collar bone. He grabs my ear.
The thing is, he doesn’t just hold it. Whatever bucolic “it’s weird, but sweet” Rockwellian image you’re conjuring up, you need to begin again. He’s very kinetic with it. He fidgets with it. His self-soothing includes little repetitive motions. On my ear.
Remember Taggies? Those little blankets and toys designed with all the tags sticking out of them for kids to rub? My girls never took to them but we had a few, and oh, how I tried to convince G that they were better than ears. No, they’re not, he retorted sternly with his eyes (as only four-month-olds can).
Nobody wants a cold tag, woman.
He is gentle in his movements, though they’re full-range-of-motion ones. He’ll bend the cartilage at the top of my ear baaack and fooorth, baaack and forth. Like bending a credit card in half one way, then the other. Until it breaks. I wonder if my ears will fold over when I’m old, years of deep, slow cartilage damage. It doesn’t hurt. But calling it pleasant would be misleading. Maybe I should be applying collagen creams to my ear backs?
Sometimes he plugs the ear itself. He’ll stick his finger, usually an index but depending on his angle, sometimes a pinkie, right into my ear. That’s when he needs the most reassurance, I think. Like: I created a suction in your ear with my finger. That’s how connected we are. You and me, baby. You and me. Personal space is just a construct, right?
He just really loves ears. They comfort him. Every time I wonder if it's crossing the line past amusing quirk into full-on strange I'm reminded of the words of my dear friend, who shared with me her memory that the best thing ever was when her big brother let her hold his ear. Touch is love, right?
Last night he had a bad dream and I climbed into bed with him. Eyes closed, he reached out and found my nose, feeling to the side for an ear. Then came his other hand, finding my nose and then my other ear. Like Helen Keller feeling along her teacher's face, he traces one feature into the next. He pulled gently, as he always does in bed, until my face was an inch from his. His eyes never opened. His cries sputtered and ceased, his breathing slowed, and he found his way back to restful sleep, both my ears cradled in his warm little fists.
I kept my own eyes open to watch him by night light, his eyelids fluttering, his lips slowly parting, his breath milky sweet and his hair coppery sweat and his nose just out of kissing reach. He held me to him until his sleep grew so thick that his hands fell open and I thought, don't question the shape of the gift. He pulls me to him in need, and here I am.
From the perspective of my mama-heart, I am just feeling so tenderly toward him (and toward the girls) after a weekend and a school night answering questions about when daddies die. And from the perspective of my nerve endings, I want to reassure you that I always, always remove my earrings before snuggling with my sweet boy.
image via sara.lauderdale