I rock back and forth, hearing the squeaking of the old chair that once sat in my mother’s bedroom. I feel the warmth and increasing weight of the baby against my shoulder as he drifts to sleep. i am reminded of that baby doll Susan insisted on buying when she was a teenager – yes, teenager (she always loved babies – dolls were a good substitute). The doll’s head was porcelain and her body filled with something like sand. When you held her, she molded her body to yours and was just heavy enough to feel real. Whoever made that doll really got it right.
The baby I hold is real, breathing sweet puffs into my ear and stirring just now and again with movements that are remnants of the crawling and cruising of being awake. My eyes are closed, a gesture made to convince him that there is nothing in the waking world of interest but which also comes way too easily to me.
This morning, as I readied to start the day which would begin with my grandson, I thought of my own first baby. I had been too busy to think lately. Too busy with making quilts for Colleen from her mother’s clothes so that her children and her brothers’ children could hold onto their Nanny. Too busy with breaking in a new principal, writing proposals for programs, moving furniture, creating a schedule for the upcoming year. Too busy to grieve. I wonder if it is the “time will make things easier” that people talk about.
I don’t like it, feel guilty for letting a moment slip by without thinking of him.
But I pick myself up and keep moving. On to another baby. The one who is here.
The moments of reverie given to me by my grandson as we rock and breathe send me back to that first baby, back to when I was just learning to be a mother. My boy fought sleep. I would nurse him, rock him, walk him. Finally, he would give in. For a while.
My grandson is less persistent than he. Gives in when he hears his music and feels the rhythm of the chair’s movement.
With eyes closed, music playing, and the rocking rhythm to soothe me as well as the warm bundle on my shoulder, thoughts scroll across my mind.
Sami told me that Henry looks at Kevin with a mixture of fascination and fear. He is being raised in a world of women. What does he make of the men he encounters?
HIs grandpa. Susan says he lights up when he sees him and reaches for him. His grandpa is spry and active, funny and loving. He has a young son who keeps him in the world of little ones. But he must read as “old man” to Henry. Whiskers and some gray hair, wrinkles here and there.
Kevin, his “Pop.” So tall and big. Not quite as whiskered and gray as his grandpa, but a quiet and daunting figure by virtue of his size alone. Henry can tell he is not one of his female caretakers.
Uncle Billy, boy-man. Henry hasn’t spent much time with him. No whiskers to distinguish him as a “man,” yet his size alone ( 6 foot 4 and growing ) sets him apart from his five feet and a few inches mother and aunt.
Then the image pops up. I had looked at Sami’s Facebook page this morning and scrolled through some photographs. She has a few with all of the kids together. Billy and Sarah are so young. And yet the older kids look as they do today, fully grown. Sami smiles her always photogenic smile, her brother’s arm around her neck, probably holding on a little too tight.
He would have been just the right man for Henry. Not too tall, not too young, not too old. Just whiskered enough to be man, not boy. The man version of his sisters.
If he had fulfilled the dream of becoming who he could have been. Not the way he really was. He wanted to be the right man for Henry. For all of us. Just not for himself.
I squeeze Henry without planning to. Hold him just a little tighter as the tears well up and spill from the sides of my eyes. I feel the rivulets carving identical curves along my cheeks. I wonder if I will have paths of salt left when they dry.
Henry stirs. Maybe he feels my yearning for his uncle. Feels my need for him to be present so that I can be, too. He looks straight into my face and grabs my cheeks in his hands, his little palms erasing the facing salty C’s of sorrow. He leans his head toward me and lets it lay against mine.
He knows just what I need. Baby-boy love.