The muscle memory of taking care of babies thankfully returns when you are blessed with a grandchild. Whether it is the gentle scraping of her chin with the baby spoon in order to push the overflow blob of puréed spinach back in the mouth or the instant of relief when her face reappears after popping a tight shirt over her head, it feels natural and instinctive. Ditto for pulling a uncooperative arm through a long sleeve without dislocating any loose baby joints. Having first done these tasks 30+ years ago, it is reassuring to have my skills return so easily. I am further impressed by the number of children’s songs to which I know all the words and which I sing loudly and without embarrassment. Interesting what the mind has held onto for all these years and then released with perfect timing.
What also emerged is the pure pleasure we are allowed to steal from the innocents: deeply sniffing a baby’s head (what is that smell and why can’t a candle be made of it?) or squeezing that ultra soft, plump skin (why aren’t wrist rolls and extra squishy thighs admired later in life?)
Lest I feel too much pride in my rediscovered skills or wax too rhapsodic about the glories of grand babies, I have to admit to a darker emotion. Each time I squeeze, kiss or feed Lo, I am shocked and even saddened by how few details I remember from my own children’s infancies. Sure, I remember feelings, moments, milestones but I cannot conjure a day in the life. I don’t know when my babies got their teeth, what their favorite songs were, which kid preferred which food, or if they loved to admire themselves in a mirror.
I was not diligent about keeping a baby book and could not muster the discipline to keep a journal. Yes, we have photographs, but back before digital photography, the output was sparse. We mostly captured “events” holidays, birthdays, trips and not the nuances of daily life.
It is troubling to accept that one’s mind compresses and hides so much of the past, even that which we pine to recall. The old saw “where did the time go?” is superseded by a longing to have access to just one day with each of my infants. I would inhale their sweet-scented heads and stroke their soft, soft skin and sing to them from my repertoire.
Thankfully, little Lo is hefty compensation for these lost days and this time, I am writing it down.