April 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
I once asked Oldest what she remembered about the day Lucy was born. She was nine then.
She told me about hitting wiffle balls in the backyard that morning, and she took me through the places that they all went while killing time before getting to the hospital: An antique store in my father’s home town that used to be a movie theatre. His favorite barbeque place for lunch; some sightseeing in the country, I think.
Then she told me about being in the waiting room with everyone and watching my mother peering through the windows of the doorway to the women’s wing, and everyone laughing about that. Occasionally, she would slip past and sneak down the hall for an even closer look. It’s possible my mother would have made a formidable investigative reporter.
Eventually word came that Lucy had been born and there was more smiling, more nervous, eager chatter. Some giddy, silent clapping. Oldest said she was excited about getting her turn to go see mommy and the new baby and getting to hold her. The next thing she knew people weren’t smiling any more. Some of them were wiping away tears.
I had come out to the waiting room again just after our conference with the NICU Doc. I gathered us up and we stood in a wide circle, hands-on-shoulders, while I did my best to tell everyone what the doctor had just told us. I tried allowing only the minimum aspect of surprise and fear to register on my face and in my voice. I felt like I was doing well, but the moment was grave and surreal at the mere mention of heart trouble.
Oldest doesn’t remember what was being said. She mainly remembers wondering why people looked like they were crying when this day — the day we’d all been waiting for and talking about for so long – was supposed to be happy. I honestly don’t remember making eye contact with my children in this moment. They came into the delivery room soon after and got to have their turns kissing and touching Lucy and having their pictures taken with her and their mommy. It was very special, just like you expect it to be. They were tender and sweet with her, and so excited to feel her tiny feet and kiss her on her head.
They didn’t know anything, then, about Down syndrome, or about what our fears were for Lucy and her sick heart. It would be several days before we got into that with them. They didn’t ask questions about her. Why she was hooked to this or to that. And yet as they glowed over her and basked in the excitement and the newness happening in their lives, it seemed plain to us by their faces and by their movements that both of the girls understood that there was something about their baby sister that we would discuss another time.
Something about her that was very – important.
Lucy is adored by both of her big sisters, now ages eleven and seven. Sometimes they argue over who should get to have Lucy in their lap while they watch t.v. on the couch. Sometimes they need to be reminded to get on the floor and play with their baby sister a little bit.
At this writing, Lucy will be two in a handful of days. She’s not a walker yet, but spends more and more time on her feet, finding her bearings. We’re working on it. She’s walked as far as ten feet on her own. Primarily, though, she’s a butt-scootcher, and she will be a while longer. She sits upright and kicks her legs out straight in front of her and then pulls her heels back into her and scoots anywhere she wants to at a deceiving clip, about a foot at a time. If she wants to really turn on the jets, she leans forward and goes into a sort of modified bear crawl.
She’s at her best when her sisters cheer her on. She stands and sits back down and claps. They clap and cheer. She stands again and sits back down, pleased with herself — beside herself — and claps some more. And they cheer and clap. She laughs loudly. She stands again and takes a few steps, laughing, and sits back down and claps and rocks and cheers because the excitement in the room is too much. Too happy. She knows nothing else to do.
Sometimes we have dance parties. We’ve learned that this is as good as therapy gets for Lucy. She’ll stay on her feet longer with the music playing and watching all of us generally act weird. When she sits back down she immediately, usually, gets back up to join in again. When she gets tired she’ll sit and watch us. Her floor dance is to raise both arms up above her head and maybe swing them into different poses while she wiggles her butt, her little almond-shaped tummy squirming side to side.
Lucy, Lucy, Lucy
Being able to watch Lucy’s acceptance into our pack has been heart warming, certainly. This is not to say that there were not a few growing pains as our family dynamic went topsy-turvy for a time in the strange ways that it will when adding to your brood. It was a new day, for sure.
Oldest (nine at the time) needed to be reminded frequently that her job was simply to be a good helper and a Big Sister — not Mommy Lite. Middle children at some point will cease to be the youngest, and we watched Middle struggle to assume her new role as No Longer the Baby.
On a simple turn about our neighborhood loop one day, Lucy and Middle and me, I was pushing the stroller on a cool morning with Middle beside me; just out walking with the new baby and talking with my pal.
We’d once had a pretty fun routine on my days off. This day, I’d kept Middle home from pre-K for whatever reason, maybe just because I could, and so it sort of felt like old times. I was humming a simple old folksy tune that I often intone around the house, and that I’ve never known the words to. I make them up. At the right time I’ll insert the kids’ names into the made up song’s made up lyrics. I’d done this nearly a million times before with the other girls, only this time I’d used Lucy’s name. Hearing this, Middle remarked:
“That used to be me. Now it’s just Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.”
Her tone wasn’t pitiful as she said this. And she didn’t appear downcast or somber — sort of: Just Saying.
Still, it got me a little.
Oldest has always had the knack. When Lucy first began to giggle it was Missus leaning over her on our bed, kind of working her all over with a busy pair of pinchers, making small little noises in kind. This is what I’m told. I didn’t hear a laugh or a giggle in any form until a month or so after Missus first reported this new trick, which she could not replicate in my presence. I, of course, did my natural duty in dismissing the claim as hogwash.
It wasn’t, though, and in another month or two even I couldn’t deny that the girl had a giggle. A great one. Could her father extract these tiny fits of internal glee from her? No. Of course not. Could her mother? Certainly. At times. Middle? Not so much.
Oldest, however, had been awarded free reign over her baby sister’s newest form of affection. All she had to do was lay Lucy on her lap and go in for an Eskimo. Well before they’d kiss noses, Oldest’s hair would be falling down around the baby’s face and Lucy would be emitting these abrupt, semi-automatic, single-syllable outbursts of jubilation that she seemed to neither have nor want control over.
You could just hold Lucy up to her briefly, and then again, over and over –peek-a-boo like — and a short laughing fit would ensue every time. Not so with the rest of us. Only Oldest. We could only smile and laugh along and pout with our arms folded and with false frowns that it wasn’t fair only she got this kind of treatment. And then we’d have her to do it again. And then again.
After much earnest pestering for a job title, Middle was awarded the task and title of diaper getter. At the opportune moments, she would open the top drawer of her baby sister’s changing table to withdraw the solitary fresh diaper. This she would lay at Lucy’s feet before extracting two or three wet tissues from a plastic tub. These she would place handily aside for the convenience of whomever happened to be conducting the main business.
To our mild surprise, she did not tire or quickly lose interest in her new charge, which she continued to execute piously for weeks. Contrarily, whenever one of us would mindlessly open the drawer and grab one out (Middle, without our knowledge, only a few small steps behind), we would be solemnly reprimanded by one very chagrined Big Sister, her small sweet face at once vexed and wounded-looking.
A now favorite memory of mine came the very first morning that Lucy woke in our home.
She slept mute in her nursery, adjacent to our bedroom, and the girls had joined Missus and me in our bed that morning, separately, wordlessly, as they are given to doing. We lay there four across for a time, alternately snuggling and dozing. The first words spoken that day were by Oldest who, when she perceived that we were waking for good, softly and carefully worded the question of whether or not she could go in — and look – at Lucy.
Of course, you can do nothing but smile and nod at such sweet stuff and off she went, quiet as Christmas morning. Missus and I exchanged sleepy grins as she gingerly opened the door and silently tiptoed in. Soon Middle was there beside her, standing on a chair, and both stood with wide arcing smiles, giddily but quietly cooing, oohing and awe-ing over the oblivious sleeping child.
It does do something for the heart — watching siblings become sisters.