Dear Little Puppy,
This month your dad saved your life. We were camping and someone (whose name and relationship will be withheld in this forum) gave you a chunk of carrot to gnaw on. Now, as an aside, I need to mention here that you've got this habit of keeping food in your mouth for a very, very long time. I'll feed you breakfast at 7:30 and at 11:00 I'll ask, "What is in your mouth?" only to discover a chunk of blueberry pancake or bit of granola cereal that you'd apparently kept tucked away in a cheek in case of an emergency hunger situation later in the day. So on this particular occasion I (er...someone) had given you a bit of carrot to eat, and you'd been running all around the campground, attempting to suck out every last vitamin before swallowing. Then Daddy did something that displeased you--I think he took you off his shoulders and asked you to walk. You responded in typical fashion: you began screaming. Your screaming turned into gagging, and you were screaming, then gagging, and then--suddenly--not doing either. Instead you were looking up at Daddy with big scared eyes and your face was beginning to turn a reddish purple.
Daddy's heart stopped. You weren't breathing.
He quickly picked you up, turned you downward, and performed a child-sized Heimlich maneuver until chunks of orange flew out of your throat and into the dirt and you began to wail-- the wail of a newborn child first trying out his lungs. I heard that wail from across the campground and came to see what was happening. You were coughing and crying. When I asked what was wrong, Daddy stabbed a finger in my face and said, "Don't you EVER give him a carrot EVER again."
We cuddled you together for a long time afterward, giving you sips of soda to help make everything better. It seemed to work.
I'm so grateful we didn't lose you that day.
Although in many ways, I've found that having a small child is like being in constant mourning anyway. And constant celebration too. They're wrapped together. Every thing about you is so precious and so fleeting that I spend much of my time trying to hold it close to me, trying to memorize it all, celebrating it, trying to will it to stay longer. But I know it won't. So I try to keep it all, hold it close, smell your hair and the groove in the back of your neck; watch how your little fingers gently stroke Daddy's neck when you're sleepy; hold your squishy smooth hands in my grown-up hands, marveling at the tiny perfect creases in your fingers; tickle your strong but chubby arms; nibble your curled-up toes; thirstily suck up the liquid gold of your hearty giggles; memorize how your stubby arms look folded against your chest, clutching against your little heart as many rocks as you can get to balance on them.
I love your eyes, so round, so open, so uncolored by experience, so unafraid. I love to watch you smell artificial flowers and then shove them under my nose, your eyes sparkling with expectation, just knowing that I'll think they smell as good as you do. I love the sweet shape of your naked body--long lean legs with chubby knees, a neat little bottom, a protruberant Buddah belly. (You usually run when you're naked, throwing yourself onto things, like it's the most joyous experience of your life and you needs to grasp it all at once, quickly, before your spirit is entrapped again by the cruel adhesive of a diaper.) I love your little arms wrapped around my neck, knees tucked against my belly, little fingers running through my hair, torso relaxed and perfectly safe in my arms. I love that my touch can cure you of almost all your fears and ailments and frustrations. Sometimes when we're wrestling, I let you pull my hair and chew on the ponytail elastic so that I can lay my head on your chest and listen to your heartbeat -- a sound as magical and as rapid as the first time I heard it, all those months ago in the OBGyn's office.
You bring so much color into the world. On the radio recently I heard a poet, Breyton Breytenbach, talking about what it was like to be freed from prison after spending many years locked up in South Africa. He said he was amazed by the beauty of the world around him...and the numbness of the people living in it. "I felt like I was moving in a complete world of zombies," he remarked later. "These people don't really know what life is about. They don't feel walking in the street. They don't see the colors. They're not alive. Their antennae are not vibrating." But your antennae, little one, are definitely vibrating. Every day is full of new and interesting experiences for you. Flowers, weeds, pine cones, lawn ornaments, rocks, sticks, tires, cats, bugs, mud puddles, drinking fountains, pieces of garbage, apples rotting in the gutter, children playing, the wind blowing: they are all things that I had learned to tune out, to pass without noticing. But you brought them back to me, like so many fistfuls of dried leaves, and have taught me again how to take joy in all of them. You laugh out loud every time I spread a blanket on the floor. You stamp your feet just for the joy of feeling them pound against the pavement. You hold your hands in the warm air of my blow-dryer and smile at the miracle of its warmth. You have shown me how important the little things are, have forced me to slow down, have helped me readjust my radar to a more sensitive frequency.
This month I stood at the kitchen window and watched you playing outside with your dad. Daddy showed you how to blow the white seeds off a dandelion stem. Together you blew, cheeks round, lips round. Then you rolled a big yellow ball back and forth. The ball was almost as tall as you, and every time it bumped into your little body, you would grin, and little curved lines would form around your cheek, behind your eyes. Then Daddy picked you up and showed you a sunflower, its head bowed under the weight of ripening seeds. You reached out to feel its bumpy texture and pull at the petals.
A month or two ago I took you out to the raspberry patch in Grandpa and Grandma's garden. I showed you the berries, picked a few, and fed them to you. With a twinkle in your eye, you began reaching through branches and leaves for raspberries ripe enough to come off without a fight. One by one, very slowly, you pulled them off and, pressing your face against mine, placed them into my mouth.
I shouldn't let you go thinking, however, that life with you is one endless dance on a rainbow. The following is from my journal this month: "Today Soren is driving me crazy. He has been very demanding of my attention and the littlest things throw him into fits of whining and tears. He grabs at my legs, fusses, bites. I tell him, "It's OK." I tell him, "Don't bite." I tell him, "Maybe you just need a cuddle." I tell him, "Maybe you could use some time alone." But all the cuddles and reassurances and remonstrations and time-outs in the world seem powerless to appease my grumpy little dictator. It's driving me crazy! How much longer 'til naptime?"
Other things from this month:
-I was cutting Daddy's hair in the bathroom one morning when you toddled by, then stopped to observe. You were not pleased with what was happening. "No!" you said sternly. I continued cutting, and after a while, you burst out with a new word: "Stop!"
-Auntie Collette checked on you during a nap at her house, only to discover that, before falling asleep, you had removed your pants and diaper. You slept in your usual position: arms and legs tucked under your body, bum pointed high in the air. But this time, it was a totally bare little bum. We could've taken a picture and sold it to Anne Geddes for big money.
-We took you to the Spud Day parade, which you enjoyed, except for the part where fire engines drove past honking their horns. You particularly liked the free candy.
-New words: You say "jooose" in describing any liquid refreshment. "Crah--" with a throaty pronunciation on the "c"-- means "cookie" and "cracker." You sometimes say, "Yes peese" (yes please!). And you can identify three major facial features: "Ice," (eyes), "No," (nose), and "Bababa," (mouth--maybe for "blahblahblah?")
-You have begun to take pleasure in beautiful women. Particularly blondes. I took you with me to a doctor's appointment and you were immediately attracted to a blonde woman in the waiting room. You hovered around her legs, brought her toys, and babbled at her. You even followed her out of the office. At Daddy's company picnic, you immediately made friends with a little blonde girl of about three. We recently spent a day in Pocatello recreating with our friends the Keddingtons. After visiting the zoo we went to a little water park. We passed a delightful afternoon swimming and playing, and you seemed to have a lot of fun in the water and with Aubrey, who is almost your exact same age, but I'm pretty sure your favorite part of the visit was the bikini babe lounging on a blanket nearby. Every time you could break away from our party, you'd make a beeline to this college-aged woman. You lay down on the blanket next to her. You stroked her calves and looked lovingly up into her eyes. You spoke to her in your own language.
And I must admit, I think that all three of these women were thoroughly charmed. You little lady killer.