We had a birthday here yesterday. I call her Jane, he calls her Max (a baby nickname, from when she made the funniest growling noises—like a Wild Thing—and Max is the friend of the Wild Things, you recall).
She can’t possibly be twelve. It was just the other day that I was toting her in the sling all over Manhattan and Queens. Sometimes we took the stroller along, to hold our groceries. Scott favored the backpack, especially while vacuuming. I tried it once. I missed having her up front, on my hip, where I could kiss the top of her head. Also, I got stuck between the inner and outer doorways of our building’s vestibule when we came home. The outer door opened inward, and the inner door opened out, and there wasn’t room for the first door to close with me and the backpack inside the vestibule, so that I needed to hold the first (big, heavy) door open while opening the second one too. And I didn’t have the muscle power. (This has ever been a challenge of my motherhood. I’m a shrimp.) The outer door began to swing shut while I was trying to maneuver the second one open, and it wedged the backpack frame so tightly that I couldn’t budge. Jane chose this moment to start pulling my hair, and I had no free hands with which to stop her. She was laughing, so at least I knew she was all right.
I don’t actually remember how we escaped from our predicament. Did the landlords come to our rescue?
After that, I stuck to the sling.
She could practically wear her baby sister in a sling now. Sometimes Rilla lunges out of my arms toward Jane, crowing with laughter. I think about baby Jane chuckling over her fistfuls of my hair, unaware that the heavy door threatened to slam shut on her. Laughter and Jane go together; she is a throw-back-her-head- and-howl sort of girl, always quick to see the joke, even when it’s on her. Scott wrote about how she laughed yesterday, out on a seawall by the harbor-seal beach, when a wave broke against the wall and splashed her with spray. I was back on the shore with Rilla (in the sling), watching through the camera’s zoom lens.
That will be increasingly the pattern, won’t it? I’ll be standing on the shore, watching her venture farther and farther out to sea? Reality breaks over you like a wave sometimes, drenching you with salt spray. Babies grow up. They untangle their fingers from your hair and turn their faces toward the great blue expanse of the horizon. They throw back their heads and laugh, welcoming the adventure.