Friday, August 22

Who knew orthodontia could move me to tears

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, ...
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

--Sylvia Plath, from "Morning Song"

I don't know why I'm so stubborn, trying to hold tight to Ethan's babyhood even as it slips through my fingers. Yes, he's only six months old. But he's SIX MONTHS OLD. Today when I picked him up from daycare, he was sitting on the floor with one of his friends, picking toys out of a basket. HE WAS SELECTING TOYS. AND NOT FALLING OVER.

He's been sleeping through the night fairly regularly since he was about 8 weeks old, and has been increasing to sometimes 9 1/2 hour stretches lately. But I still worry when he doesn't wake up during the night, no matter how I longed for a good night's sleep just a few months ago.

He also no longer has the kitten-mouth of a newborn, with a tiny pink tongue between tiny pink gums. Ethan has a tooth. That's right. A TOOTH.

I'm still in a state of shock over that. He's been drooling excessively and chewing on things for a while now, but have you seen babies? That's just what they do.

But a tooth takes things to another level. Teeth are such a huge thing in life: when kids lose their baby ones and look awkward for awhile, like their heads are too small for their jaws... when cavities happen, and crowns, and sometimes eventually even dentures. Ethan is entering into the world of dental work, and I was blindsided by it.

It surprisingly "erupted" (such a harsh term, but I didn't invent it) while Noah and I were in Maryland. His parents told us on the first day, when we were in Baltimore. That day we saw the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the Science Center, and I have to say that I was really fascinated, strange though it was.

If you can keep your mind solely on science, the displays are truly incredible. Inevitably, though, I was overtaken from time to time by the oddness of it all. By the fact that these displays were once living, breathing people with families and infinite life stories. And now here they are, stripped of every recognizable human quality, but somehow still invoking their histories.

The moment that stands out to me most, though, had nothing to do with the displays. It was instead a conversation that happened between a little girl and her mom. The girl was looking at a case of various lung specimens. As though reality suddenly hit like a Mack truck, she became distressed and asked her mom, “Is this real?” Her mom in turn asked, “Do you want it to be?” “No,” she said. “Then it isn’t,” said the mother, without skipping a beat. And in that instant, the girl’s face relaxed, and she continued on to other subjects.

It was a beautiful illustration of the bond between mother and child, the safety and comfort that a parent can provide. How we hold Ethan's entire little world together in the invisible threads of a loving relationship, and how quickly his innocent existence would collapse if we weren't careful. It reminded me of how fragile children are, and how important it is for parents not to betray our responsibility. Even from the moment Ethan was born, I was sad not because I was no longer pregnant, but because I would no longer be able to protect him at all times, sacrificing myself if necessary.

Ethan has a tooth and he sleeps through the night. But I have a feeling I will wake up in the night for a long time to come, waiting and listening for his cry, ready to jump if he needs me.

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