The green apron age

Posted by jdg | Thursday, July 06, 2006 | ,

I'm still waiting for the day to come when I'll wish she was younger. It's like a refrain with us: she'll smile or say something or scoot along the ground in some woeful imitation of running and Wood and I will look at each other and say I don't want her to grow up---this is the perfect age. Then a couple months later we'll say that same thing again. Often I'll see someone else's baby in some earlier state of infant evolution, and I'll think, God I'm so glad Juniper's not that age anymore. That age is no fun compared to this one. It gives me some hope that we will never see the day where we'll wish she's something she's not.

The last few days were full of such superlatives; for example, we were sure that Monday was her sweetest day ever, watching her cling to Wood's belly at the beach in Santa Cruz, afraid of the water, watching her slurp down a milkshake and shriek along the sidewalk of Pacific Street, parting waves of admiring old ladies with each step. But then we said it again yesterday while she romped around the sculpture garden outside the De Young Museum rushing us with kisses and then hiding from us, giggling behind trees in the Shakespeare Garden. With two days off work I was able to spend four full days with Juniper: four days without her clinging to my shins while I hunt for my keys in the morning, no need for those hard byebyes. She's laughing so much these days; she's showing us that she has a sense of humor and she plays little jokes that she finds absolutely hilarious. She's talking so much more, finding words for the things she wants. Wood remarked that it must feel so powerful to suddenly find yourself able to ask for something and then actually get it, to say "ca-ca" and have two crackers appear out of nowhere to fit snugly in two hands. My favorite thing about this Juniper is the way she responds to your voice when you ask any question: she nods with such baseless certainty. "Juniper, are there monkeys in those trees?" [vigorous nodding] "Juniper, don't you think that Heath Ledger is only marrying Michelle Williams because she got knocked up?" [nod, nod] My favorite thing to do at the end of the day when I come home from work is to sit with her in the tub and ask her about all the things she did that day, and have her look up at me with those big brown eyes and nod in answer to every question.

Despite her overeagerness to affirm, it is clear she does understand so much more than she can say. I love watching her think, watching her "twist the shapes of thoughts into the stony idiom of the brain." I get so absorbed in her words, I whisper and repeat them in her ear on long walks. I am so eager to converse with her, her every correct answer to my mild interrogation feels as powerful to me as it must feel for her to get what she asks for. "What does the bus say, Juniper?" Vroooooooooooooo. "Which way to the ducks?" [she points] While walking down our street and she suddenly says "leafs," I'll lift her high above my head and she reaches her arms up into the boughs and branches of the trees and she shrieks as the fleshy blades and the petioles tickle her palms. "Again," she tells me, as we draw near a gingko at eye level and I stick my nose into her neck and she giggles and the gingko leaves run along both our cheeks.

I remember years ago when I first moved to San Francisco I went out for sushi with a friend and during the entire meal I was distracted to dumb wonder by a father and his teenage daughter eating together at the next table on a late Sunday afternoon. This should say something about what kind of 23-year old I was, to sit there and fantasize about some future meal with some imagined daughter of my own who would want to sit and have sushi and talk with me when she's sixteen, to laugh and talk about important things or things that weren't important at all, but more importantly to sit across from her and hear her voice and hear her shade and knit anew the patch of words we've gifted her, to sit and marvel and gasp at the wonder of this thing that's sprung from me.