Bodies celestial, terrestrial

28 08 2015

I’m thinking a lot about my daughters’ bodies these days.  Not, yet, thankfully, at all, about the challenges of bearing female bodies out and about in the bigger world today–they’re still both firmly, safely in the land of having child-bodies, the kind where nobody so much as blinks if you pull a wet shirt off over their heads at the playground, but just about the present, fleeting physicality of loving these little beauties.  I do a lot of this thinking with my hands, with my belly, with my face, the face pressed against Evanny’s cool face in the morning, as she crawls into bed beside me and snuggles down in a rapid collection of hard kicks and the scratching flare of rough toenails, the hand cradling Tabitha’s head while she nurses, her warm belly tucked against mine, her little hands crawling like kittens, aggressively curious and sharp on the edges, between my breasts, under my shirt and out again, flapping at me in baby-irritation when I stop them from poking the soft Sarlac-pit of my belly button with the needle of a jagged nail.

Little not-so-little bodies, bath-warm, sweat-curled, and demure with bubbles.

Little not-so-little bodies, bath-warm, sweat-curled, and demure with bubbles.

Bodies play tricks with memory.  Holding Tabba, her heavy length draped across my lap, her feet danging past the chair-cushion now, her back long enough to arch without support, following those feet in a gravitational slide toward the floor, toward walking, pointing, babbling at the door, I can remember more easily Evanny this size than I can remember either of them tiny: the body remembers what it recognizes, jettisons what no longer calls upon its ligaments with performance criteria.  I know how to hold the tossing toddler (but not tightly; my ninja hold is awkward and breakable, nothing like her father’s), but I desperately, already, miss the limp weight of her infanthood, clinging blissfully to its last vestiges as she grabs onto my finger with one growing-but-still-tiny hand, as she slides into sleep, lolling her head against my arm.  If someone handed me a baby (why isn’t there anybody around ready to hand me a baby?), I would already be rusty, a little uncertain in my movements, and likely to make said baby cry (but I wouldn’t drop her, I promise; feel free to try it!), sensing as they do those ripples of uncertainty. Her sister is a whole separate exercise in unfamiliarity, her body stretching for the new lankiness of three, her legs suddenly coltish and long, her soft, white arms so much longer than I expect when they reach out for me, no matter how many times I meet that reach each day.  I have to use head and heart, insistently, when I touch or hold her; my body says she’s strange to me, that this long-limbed creature, this kid, can’t possibly be my baby.  I can’t see her face, now, in most of her baby pictures anymore.  I recognize them, I remember how it felt to love that baby, and oh, dear, dear Lord how I love this kid, but I can only tell myself, over and over and over, that they’re one and the same; the physical knowing pulls back like a snail’s eye, unbelieving that this can be so true, this much difference, this much taffy-stretching of those little limbs so soon.

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Lanky McSpiderlegs, digging in the lakeside dirt we pretend is beach sand in these parts

It’s a clenching pain, each time I notice, which is so, so many times a day: Evanny’s longness, that separation from the known shape-and-heft of the body I birthed, and the always-present knowledge that those cells are always growing, that she’s only going to get bigger, and not just eventually, in a “someday we’ll have to shop for back-to-school clothes for a teenager” sort of way, but also tomorrow.  And this afternoon, when she wakes from napping taller than she went to sleep, with less blurry infancy and more of her grandmother’s expressive mouth about her face.  And Tabitha’s relative bigness her own self; she’s the foil, plump and solid, to her sister’s sapling length, but it’s a race she’s already entered, and I can’t help notice, every snuggle, every carry, every hug of tiny, solid little dolls’ arms around my neck that each is its last at just-that-shape as well, that her legs will be dangling past my hips soon enough when I lift her down the stairs, that she, too, will become some stretched-and-tangled tumble of long arms and legs, not just someday, but with this coming wave of changing seasons.  Being two months ahead on the calendar makes her a season ahead in the kid-closet, and when I retire each of the 2T pieces Ev no longer fits into smoothly, the physical objects in my folding hands make me pointedly aware of the almost-lapping underway: Tab might have those back out again as early as next summer.  Ev held off the visible growing up by taking so long to grow hair, too; she was 18 months old before she had as much as Tab on her first birthday.  It might be as soon as next summer, too, that I can’t really recognize Tabitha as belonging to her baby pictures either–the pictures I’m still taking, now, today, because she’s still the baby.

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Advancing on her sister’s everything: chair, height, location, oversized t-shirt, skinned-knee way of throwing herself at the world.

At the same time, though, that my body longs to hold their bodies back, hold them close, hold them soft with sleep and repetitive self-soothing motions, just hold them any way they’ll have me (“Go away,” Ev tells me this morning, as I snuggle next to where she’s imposed herself in the center of my bed, but as I lie near her, neither advancing nor retreating, she thinks a minute, wiggles her feet, and changes her tune.  “Okay.  You can kiss me.”), I love, love, love to watch them take those bodies places.  Playgrounds are a special delight: Evanny at this point takes on any challenge she can reach (so, really, it’s everything but the monkey-bars and anything with a prohibitively high first-step); Tabitha is soundly on the same track.  Mostly barefoot, she’s delighted to practice stairs and slides, try her hands and feet at ladders (rarely are these calibrated for her height, but if she fits, she climbs!), run across rubber-mat or wood-chip floors with equal determination.  I was watching her yesterday, using her hands and arms to cling to a center-post on a set of playground stairs, snaking her cold, dirt-blackened little toes around corners to reach for purchase, fierce about moving, just moving anywhere, always right at the outer edge of her limitations, and in those moments I’m at odds with my own self, because while my body, when it holds onto hers in dark rooms, curling around the warm little curves of her shape, murmurs like a sleep song, over and over, “stay, stay, stay, stay, stay,” when I see her out in the world, frowning with concentration, stretching each step just a little further, my heart rejoices for her, loudly cheering “go, go, go!”

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Conquer ALL the things! (The shoes lasted about as long as it took me to pull her over this bar, because she had no interest in down, only up, up, up.)

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One response

28 08 2015
Eileen Schell

Nice entry, Tyra! It’s amazing to see what they do with those bodies. I am watching Autumn flip backwards on a beam with her body and break boards, so you never know where they might go!

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