Charitable and Superstitious

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.–Shakespeare

There are few ways of expressing the depth of emotion one feels about their tot without sounding cliche. Everything seems forced or melodramatic, but somehow still doesn't hit the mark anywhere near what one truly feels; it's impossible to quantify and defies description to anyone except perhaps a very few interested parties (the other parent hopefully, grandparents maybe--perhaps the oddly bemused good friend on a good day), and then usually one must be careful that the other party is in a receptive and sappy mood.

Today was a pretty crappy day, all things being equal. I slept poorly and had wretched nightmares. When I woke up, the bun was unusually demanding, both clinging and willful, if that's possible. There was a great deal of me snarling at him in protective and exasperated ways, and for his part, he met the growls with the appropriate tears and anger. He is on the verge of walking, which I suspect is making him curious about his independence but is inspiring a certain neediness which makes him particularly demanding of my attention. Sort of "Screw you, Mom!" while looking over his shoulder to make sure I'm watching.

But even still, there has been much to be wistful about, because he's creeping up on his first birthday and because there have been so many developments that have come to pass in his life. He's mooing now--actual "moo's"-- and if "moo" were a word I could claim that he's talking. He's also making our little sign language symbol for "snake" (flicking his tongue) which is very endearing. Who can say whether he knows exactly what he's doing? But I'm just proud as can be.

And when the family was here over Christmas getting to know the newest member of the clan, my father sat across from me quietly the last day he was here and said, "You can't imagine how it will make you feel until you've had one of your own. It's a whole depth of emotion that is unimaginable without kids."

There is a poignance that escaped me before, and I think I could once qualify for what was called "a sensitive child." But I seem like a hard-bitten pragmatist compared with my husband. On Christmas eve when my whole family arrived, we walked en masse up the street to grab a bite. While there in the funky tapas joint, a goofy bluegrass band playing covers of rock songs serenaded the bun with "She's Leaving Home" on mandolin, and he stared wide-eyed from his cozy perch in his stroller. The entire restaurant was somewhat transfixed with what I can only imagine was a perfect holiday scene: a tiny child dressed in wintry clothes and jaunty hat, bundled in sleigh-like excess in his stroller, wild-eyed with the wonderment of the world and the music pouring from the little instrument in front of him. People were relaxing for a moment, taking a minute from their hectic day and bathing in the warmth of their wine and companions, the shoppers on the street outside, and our son.

I didn't really pay attention. I was preoccupied with my relatives, but my husband was terribly moved. That night he said, "It was a special moment," and only then did I look back on it and appreciate it for what it was. Our best memories are the small moments, ones that wouldn't merit a second glance before, but now are more priceless than gold.

In the aftermath of the tsunamis, as the casualties were reaching the unthinkably high numbers of 10,000 (now almost slight compared with the 120,000 dead that are confirmed, with many more expected), my husband was reading the headlines. He started to cry. He didn't really need to say anything even though he did, because it was understood: each of the victims was somebody's baby. So many people were looking for their loved ones, and in many cases were never going to see the one thing in their lives worth the price of the candle. They were searching high and low for their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, and though there was nothing valuable left of their physical world around them, it was the loss of their hearts that made my husband's own break. It is a pain that is unfathomable, and it's being repeated beyond reckoning throughout nine countries across Asia night and day after an impassive and all-powerful nature has taken the only thing of real value from thousands upon thousands of people.

It is a pain that's physical; you can look at your own child and feel the exquisite sorrow from across the earth, a depth of misery which I could never quite understand before. I sympathized in the past, and always tried to do what I felt on an empathetic level was the right thing to do, whether march in war protests, or give money to charitable and aid organizations, or whatever else the situation warranted, but now I understand with the clarity of personal love for our own son just the barest glimmer of the grief and horror others are feeling thousands of miles away. One cannot fathom how one would survive the suffering or sickness or death of their own child; charities are so successful because they provide a certain amount of hope that they can aid others in such an unthinkable eventuality. But it is also mildly superstitious; one pretends that in helping the desperate that one can stave off their own misfortune. It is an idle hope, clearly, but we do what little we can to buffer ourselves against the capriciousness of life.

The bun is sleeping poorly in the other room--seemingly the teeth are getting him down again--and I'm trying to relax after a grueling day. But I only have to look at the numbers of casualties on the headlines as they roll by to give my heart to the grieving and deep thanks for my good fortune.

It's a tangle of emotion, but the bun continues to break my heart every day. And that's a good thing.