the little things

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | , ,

Juniper is pointing at things now, too. She sees the wedding photo of Wood and I on the wall and she points to it and says, dad. In my arms, her face and eyes close to mine, she points to my painting of Charlie Chaplin and says, dad. She points to Wood's autographed photo of Harry Truman and says dad. Her world is full of father figures, it seems. Either that or she has no problem confusing me with guys who have hitlerstaches or no hair.

One of the female providers at Juniper's daycare told me that yesterday the guy who takes care of her asked her where her daddy was and she looked towards the door, but then the woman also told me in her pidgen English that Juniper calls him dada and he says, No, I'm not your dada. No, not me. The guy himself has enough sense not to tell me this, but he can't keep this Chinese broad he works with from breaking my heart.

When I get home from work Wood sets her down by the door to the hallway where I come in soaked from the rain, where I slip off my wet shoes and drop the mail and hold out my arms for her as she crawls down the hallway to me, stopping at my holey socks and pulling herself up by my pantlegs, pushing against my shins before wobbling backwards with her arms in the air, begging to be picked up. Her mother says, daddy's home and she looks at me and mumbles dada before burying her face in my wet shoulder, a shy girl suddenly. I hug her and put my lips against her neck and bounce around the apartment while she laughs and giggles in a voice that hints at what she will talk like when she is a big girl, when's she's too big to hold like this or toss in the air and swing upside-down. I try to squeeze as much of that voice out as I can on nights like tonight with such little time before she has to go to bed, before the nightly battle over sleep challenges me to remember the sweetness in her eyes when she first saw me home, the crinkle in her nose as she crawled across the floor to greet me.

She hasn't said mama yet, but she can say ma when she puts her lips against the back of her hand and kisses it, MMMaaa! She kisses the porcelain of the bathtub and says, MMMaaa! She kisses my hairy belly and says, MMMaaa! She imitates you when you do it on her cheek, on her forehead. She has learned to wave goodbye. She sings when you take her socks off.

In the mornings, after Wood brings her to our bed for the first feeding of the day, and after she wakes from it and stares at us in astonishment that we would sleep like such shrews hiding from the cusp of the morning, she reaches out for my face and I feel her fingers on my nose, across my eyes and into my mouth, and dadadadadadadadada is the first sound I remember hearing every day. Sometimes we wake to find her making raspberries with her lips. It is getting dark earlier and earlier in San Francisco these days, but still, each evening I call Wood when I get off the bus and when I turn the corner, across the avenue, I see Junebug's face in our window, peering for me in the darkness. By the time I am halfway across the avenue she has found me, and I see her fists banging up and down on the couch and her mother's natural smile above her tells me all I need to know about what Junebug's moving lips are saying. I stand down there, below her face in the window, and I smile and wave and mouth words to her. I would stand there in any kind of rain.

These are just little things, I know, like the curious look of mistrust she gives me when I run a comb through her hair (it's getting longer), or the way she holds on to her mother like a little naked koala when she is fresh from the bath. But they are the little things that all together overcome you with the sensation that this is all so worth it, that this is the best thing in the world you could be doing, that the love you feel for this little person is more powerful than any words you could possibly use in a fruitless effort to contain it.