Monday, August 6, 2012
Today, my niece is nine months old, a date contemporary mothers and the surrounding culture have cleverly coined Inside-Out Day: nine months in, nine months out. My mind has been a muddle lately, trying to sort thoughts and emotions, and as I gaze back on earlier photographs of this beautiful baby, taken only months before, I cannot believe how tiny she is, how much she grows and changes and develops each time I visit her, and while I am unbelievably proud of her and my sister, an incredible mother, I cannot help but feel a bit bittersweet about it all. After all, I am a romantic and supremely sentimental at heart. Each time I see her, she is bigger and she is different, which thrills me but frightens me, but each time she smiles and recognizes me, which just makes me cascade with happiness.
Weeks after Winona was born, altering both my life and that of my entire family forever, over the long Thanksgiving weekend back home where I was born, grew up, I found these baby girl dresses, belonging to first my sister and then to me, charming and dated in their age, but still adorable. My mother had extracted them, an excavation surely from some large plastic bin in our basement, and hung them neatly in a row in one of the bedroom closets. Seeing these tiny articles of clothing, that had once clothed me from nakedness, it seemed an impossibility, to be so small, so easily covered and protected, easily amazed and joyous at the simple pleasures this world has to offer. I discover this all now, spending time playing and laughing with Winona, how she smiles and giggles openly, from the juice of a fresh peach, from the bright colors and shapes within her books, from the frenetic scurrying of the puppy proudly displaying her stuffed bunny friend. I discover that I was truly that small then, when my primary concerns were playing in the sun, drinking the milk from my cereal and eating another bowl, reading and telling stories to my dolls, trying to catch pet toads in our backyard.
Much time, money, and effort is spent by many mothers now clothing and accessorizing their children, to look like trendy adults, or to look like the children of whatever relevantly irrelevant celebrity is currently splayed across the tabloid pages. Simple cotton dresses with embroidered tiny flowers in pastel pinks and blues and greens have not altogether disappeared, but do seem more rare and quaint in the commercial maelstrom of the baby industry. In the end, I fear these mothers, those prone to the subterfuge of advertisement and media, are missing it, in this frenzy of superficial pretense; their child, growing up, learning, laughing. I feel so eternally grateful that I have this opportunity to witness and to participate and to learn from and help the development of this new person.