Friday, October 2, 2015

Sylvia's First Birthday

Sylvia, Extreme.

     Sylvia's birthday was relatively uneventful. Kate was grateful for that. For one day to outshine a year of change, growth and transition would be overwhelming to the extreme. But Sylvia's birthday was uneventful also because of the down to earth reality of the day. 
     It was Sunday and hot. The day before, they discovered that their car, the mostly indomitable White Rabbit refused to start. Something was up with the igniter. And the hood didn't close all the way. As unlikely as it seemed, the first thing Kate thought of was that someone had tampered with the car. At any rate, they weren't going to walk a mile to church in 90 degrees. And poor Sylvia had a nasty cold, anyway. To inaugurate the beginning of her second year of life, she contracted her first bad cold and also her first case of nasty diaper rash. She was a sloppy, goopy mess, oozing out of both ends. 
     And yet, with some tylenol, baby powder, and Gouda (which makes everyone happier), Sylvia was her usual cheerful and slightly demanding self. She wanted to walk so badly, and only the day before had taken her first steps all on her own. Kate and Mister sat on the floor and let her walk back and forth between them. Step, step, step, poof. A small cloud of baby powder rose in the air every time she sat down. 
     When she wasn't walking, she wanted to be held and read to. Her particular favorites at the moment were all the "color" books. Sylvia requested Brown Bear, Brown Bear so often that Kate made various adaptations to keep her brain from disintegrating.
     "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?"
     "Uh-oh. Brown bear wants to eat the red bird!"
     "Red bird, red bird, where will you go?"
     "Tweet tweet....(red bird has a friend, the yellow duck. He's got connections. Quack.)"

    Teddy enjoyed the books (and variations) as well. Sometimes they disagreed over which book to read, and the ensuing brawl of book whacking often sent Kate hiding behind a barrier of pillows. But on the whole, Kate was pleased to see that both her kids had an approximately equal interest and attention span for books. And even when it wasn't books, they often played well together--though Teddy had the predictable problem of possessiveness. 
    Kate thought back and realized that he had come a long way in the last year. When Sylvia was only days old, and Teddy began to investigate the new creature that had invaded his territory, he quickly lost interest when he discovered that he couldn't chew on her, or sit on her, or whack her with his characteristic enthusiastic arm swings. Gradually, as Sylvia started interacting more--smiling, vocalizing, and grabbing things--Teddy wanted to interact with her too. Kate had been surprised at how easily he learned to be gentle, and she was completely charmed every time he would run up to her after getting up from his nap and put his forehead against hers, or lean over and softly pat her downy head. 
    Now, they tried to chase each other, shared food and water bottles, try to wear each other's clothes (usually around their neck), and of course, fight over toys and books. The non-sharing season would be tough, Kate knew. But every once in a while she saw beautiful glimpses of the fun in store. Sometimes she heard raucous laughter when they woke up from their naps and were entertaining each other. Sometimes they sat close to each other, ignoring the pile of toys around them, babbling back and forth and chuckling. Sometimes they even took themselves away to the play room upstairs, where they would play happily (but not quietly) for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Then Sylvia would get bored and scream to be carried down the stairs. She could go down the stairs on her own. But there were many of them, and Sylvia was timid about falling or bonking into things.    
     Oh, Sylvia was fearless when it came to climbing. But going down was a different matter. Once, when she realized she wanted to get off the couch, Kate watched her creep to the edge, then gradually maneuver around on her stomach so she could swing her legs down first. In the process, Sylvia slipped and then caught herself. She didn't fall, and she didn't bonk into anything. She was on the couch where she had started. But Kate watched her think and when Sylvia realized how close she had been to falling, her face melted and the tears flowed. 
    In spite of this, Sylvia loved to walk (with help) since she was about 9 months old. Only extreme tiredness would keep her from accepting a proffered hand for a jaunt around the living room. She was even fairly good at cruising along the coffee table, bookcases, or couches, walking along with one hand stabilizing on the furniture.
    The coffee table was invaluable. It was a great height for both kids, perfect for snacks, toys and games, lessons in coloring, and (if you were a Teddy) standing on to look out the window or running along to jump onto a couch. One day, Kate gave them a usual snack of cheerios scatter along the outside of the coffee table. And Teddy, who wanted to play with them by making piles, didn't want to share. He sat in the middle of the table, while Sylvia cruised along the outside. Just as fast as he could gather up the cheerios and move them to another side of the table, Sylvia marched around and snatched a couple. Teddy gave dismayed squeals as she appropriated "his" cheerios, and with a dramatic flare, would follow her hand with his own all the way to her mouth, in the hopes of retrieving his stolen property. When the cheerio disappeared between those impenetrable doors, he hung his head and whimpered as if to say, "lost, lost, all is lost." It's hard to say if Sylvia noticed any of Teddy's drama. If so, they didn't phase her a whit. But that wouldn't have been surprising either, since stubbornness and single-minded purpose were already obvious facets of her character. 
    There was no doubt she was her mother's daughter, Kate and Mister agreed. Even from a few weeks old, they could tell she was a baby of extremes. When she was happy, she was very happy. When sad, very sad. When impatient that she hardly realized when her request had been granted. Even her face was extreme. It was cute, certainly, but so are most babies. Sylvia's was a special cuteness--she was a beautiful baby, like a doll, with deep, shiny, jewel-like blue eyes. (Such phrases characterized the compliments of everyone who saw her.) And then she would open her mouth and say, "Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma" in a deep, throaty gremlin growl. Even after almost a year, Kate was still surprised by the contrast of such a growl coming out of such a face. 
    And Kate had no doubts. There were many more surprises ahead.

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