Archive for February, 2010


Accepting Slumber

Even as adults we often struggle with sleep. Lack of time devoted to sleep, important intrusions, thoughts spinning so enchantingly they keep us awake when we do have the time and peace for sweet slumber …

But it seems like a different kind of struggle for a baby. It’s those limbs again. The brain and limbs are connected in a dance that is inching toward mastery. But when the body and brain are exhausted the moves that were smooth during the day become twitchy. Hands that have learned how to clasp one another suddenly smack into the face instead of the other hand. The face that was so peacefully relaxed, eyes closed. Or suddenly both arms are spinning and legs are kicking.

When our daughter is on the verge of sleep these spasmodic actions, which seem divided by left and right more than arms and legs, usually just makes her turn her head from side to side and whimper or grunt depending on how long the flailing lasts. She seems to be a lover of sleep, willing to put up with a little bodily imprudence as long as it will soon fade into slumber with her.

Eyes & Laughter

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with eyes. As a child I would see faces in everything: my parents and I sitting at the table (“you’re the eyes, I’m the nose”), the patterns of plate settings and those on the dishes themselves. In fact, I still do. Just last week I told my mother that her pepper grinder looked like it had eyes.

Eyes are outlets, inlets, and everything in between. I can identify people by their eyes alone. I always look into people’s eyes.  Looking into eyes offers a sense of understanding. So much can be said with eyes.

If you want to interact with our daughter, you have to look her straight in the eyes. They’ll light up, she’ll smile, she’ll flail around and laugh. If you don’t look her in the eyes, she’ll turn and talk to her favorite stuffed frog who just happens to have huge eyes that are always open and concentrated on her.

Magical Hands

The arc of physical control that we experience jumped out at me as I was reading a novel. In it an elderly man sits at a window, knowing his death is just around the corner. He attempts to raise his hands up to the trees he’s watching, but they just tremble instead. At this point in his life he can think back upon all of the strength they had in them, all of the things those hands have done. Yet he finds all he has left to control is his voice …

And that too is how we come into this life. Screaming, with no understanding of language but at least some control over our vocal cords. Our heads flop, necks too weak to support them. Hands, arms, and legs flail meaninglessly for months. At some point we make the connection that those arms magically are a part of our bodies. Our bodies to control. Once the synapses begin to connect.

It’s a slow process. One that seems to require vast consumption of milk and near constant sleep. My daughter is still going through this process. I can see the concentration in her serious eyes, her still face, as she pinwheels her arms around and kicks her legs. Crosses her eyes and learns to pull them out again.

At 10 weeks old, this week, she managed to reach out and grab both hands of a stuffed frog — one in each of her hands. With that accomplishment she laughed out loud, yet another new discovery on her ride through life. The two of us sat laughing together. She continues to learn to use those tiny little hands, and her curiosity about other hands has begun. She stares at our hands as they go through the motions of daily living that have become so routine to us yet hold so much mystery and power to her developing mind and body.

Out of a Dream

This is a story about life. Not my life, but about the beginnings (and endings) of life. About how we come in and go out, how we adapt to our bodies and learn about our worlds.