My niece Miranda is blue-eyed, brown-haired, and about seven pounds (as of writing). She sleeps a lot, cries when needed, and then passes out again. She likes powdered formula, being held, and her binky. She’s adorable, and still has that new baby scent. I never would have guessed that I’d love someone at first sight. Or, that I’d love someone who belches like a trucker. We all have our quirks.
It’s been twenty odd years since I last held a baby. I thought I’d forget how to do it. But the second that her mother handed her to me, it all came back. Holding her was practically instinctual. Just as baby’s know how to smile and kiss without being taught. There are some things that are built into us, and cannot be excised; no matter how confusing the world becomes.
Miranda opened her azure eyes, and then yawned. I kissed her on the forehead, and then the hand. She cried soon after, but I didn’t mind. I knew that this was her way of reaching out. She can’t form words yet, and so cries and coos take their place. She calmed down after being changed. That was all she needed; new nappies. And then I held her again later on.
While I held Miranda for a second time, I noticed that she had this habit of stretching out, similar to a cat. She’d stir and yawn a bit, but soon subside.
I told my therapist about this experience, and she said, “You know, you were that small once.”
I hadn’t thought about that. Of course we were all that small once, but it just didn’t register at first. Yet there I was, in that moment, holding Miranda. I had no distractions, no thoughts or worries. I could feel the warmth of Miranda in my arms. My eyes were focused on her as she slept. That was all that I needed in that moment.
I thought later on about how important human contact is to us. We are a species that needs to be social, and tangible. Talking to someone is one thing. Holding them, and feeling a pulse is another. It’s in those moments that the ineffable is given texture. We can’t see the soul, be we can feel it. In scientific terms we could explain why living bodies are warm. But that warmth is connected to an essence in that body. We can’t explain it, we just feel it. We feel it best when close to a loved one. Outside of that, it seems that essence is allusive.
There she was, little Miranda. She can’t form words yet. She doesn’t know yet the power of words to heal or hurt. She hasn’t learned the power of colors or images. Her eyes are still adjusting to the fresh environment around her. She sees light, but shapes are a bit off to her. She doesn’t know the motion of dance yet. Nor, does she know the scents of lavender, mown grass, or city streets after rain. She’ll learn all of these in time.
I realized awhile back that life is truly longer than he assume, but it is shorter than we expect. Though I think it’ll be a long road before Miranda reaches these simple milestones, I know it won’t seem long. She’ll know how to hold a crayon in the blink of an eye. You’ll wake up one day, and she’ll know how to read. Soon after that, she’ll know how to drive. Soon after that, she may be a mother herself, if she so chooses.
As her family, we’re in a unique position to witness this. We can see a life grow before our eyes, like a time-lapse of a flower in bloom. She may not be aware of this blooming, much as the flower is unaware of it. Perhaps she’s find it mushy and silly that we smile and cry at her first bike ride. Or, that her first Christmas or birthday is captured in digital amber. She’ll grow to learn that it’s about the passage of time, and marking that passage. She’ll know that both puberty and gray hairs are not opposites, but just part of growing up. She’ll come to learn the lessons that we all know…and are still learning.
I asked, “What will she be like when she grows up?”
Her mother wondered the same thing.
We can’t predict the outcome of a human life; or what legacy they leave behind. Nor can we predict their opinions, their thoughts, or the things they’ll say. We experience it as they experience it; twenty-six frames a second, twenty-four hours a day, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year…except during a leap year.
I said to her mother, “The world she’ll grow up in will be very different than the world we grew up in.”
“I know,” she said. “She won’t know what a cassette tape is. Or, how a pencil works with it.”
“She won’t know a floppy disc, a VHS tape, or a CD.” I remarked.
I then added, “Well, they still make CD’s. But she’ll never know the simple pleasures of the Twinkie.”
I stand corrected, as the Twinkie has now returned to store shelves. Hopefully, it’ll be for good this time.
So, to return to more philosophical matters…we are born in the middle of everyone else’s story. I was born in the middle of my parents’ story. However, what I didn’t know at the time was that I was born near the end of my grandparent’s story. I couldn’t picture a world without any of the people who were here when I came in. That used to bother me for the ages. Now, I see that I can’t imagine a world without the people who are here now. And I can’t imagine what it would be like without Miranda. She may experience the world without me at some point. But I’ll never experience the world without her.
And so the children born now will hear the stories of their family members, and carry on those stories. And so the story that began in the middle will have no end. It might even have no beginning, save for when our memories start. That means it’s like one long Mobius strip.
And if that just didn’t blow your mind. Perhaps you’re on the wrong formula. Try an Infamile blend instead.
Copyright Riley Joyce 2013
This photo was taken by Kethry, Miranda's mom. :)
The photo at the top of this post was taken by me.