She was still sitting in a high chair when I picked her up this afternoon. There was a green smock over her shirt, and her fingers were all sticky with cupcake crumbs. When she saw me, she slapped her hands against the tray and grinned.
Carrying her out to the car, I kissed her forehead. Her hair smelled like sweat and buttercream frosting.
There is that newborn smell that is so precious because it is so delicate and so brief. It is like nothing else, but if pressed, I would say it was maybe like powder and milky breath and clean flannel sheets.
“She doesn’t have it any more,” David would say to me sometimes.
“Sure she does,” I would say. Until she really didn’t.
She used to tuck in her arms and her legs and fall asleep curled over your heart. She looked like a barnacle, I thought.
It became a verb. And an adjective.
“Is Alice sleeping?”
“Almost. She’s barnacled.”
Then we read some things that warned us against fostering bad sleep habits. We became worried we had created “sleep associations” that would, in turn, create a sleep monster who would only sleep while barnacled.
We resolved no longer to barnacle.
Our resolve was weak.
“Hey,” one of us would say, catching the other at naptime. “What is she doing barnacled?”
(No official action was taken, but after a while, we stopped reading so much of all that.
And anyway, she doesn’t barnacle anymore. I don’t think she would fit if she tried. So, lesson learned: If a baby is asleep on your chest, it is not a problem. Not by miles.)
Yes, she has been read The New Yorker.
She has fallen asleep in hotel rooms and woken up in airplanes.
She has received blessings. She has given kisses. She has put me in my place.
Just this past weekend, she saw a fox run through the backyard. No kidding.
She stands. She takes your finger and demands that you walk her across the room. She lets go.
She sizes up the distance between footholds. Sometimes it is still too far, so she drops to her hands and knees and crawls. But more and more, she is venturing wobbly little half steps, and she screams when she gets there.
Sometimes I think, “She is impossible.”
I don’t mean, like, “Ugh. Alice! You’re impossible!”
I mean, more like, “How is she possible?”