14 August 2008

The Most Timely Gift

Ruby is growing to be an actual human, which quite took me by surprise. She has been a really easy baby, so I don't have complaints, but for the first several weeks of her life, she was very lump-ish. Our favorite babysitter, Shelby, watched the kids last night for the last time before she leaves us for college (kids and their wayward priorities), and she asked me at what point babies really start to show personality. Thinking back to Ruby's lumpiness, I was tempted to tell her it took a year, but the reality is that any mother searching for the sparks inside her baby's head will tell you that the first glimpses of personality accompany the First Smile.

I remember Charis' First Smile very vividly: at two months, she was of course not sleeping very well, and I was, as a first-time mom, wondering what's in it for me? I mean, what with all the spitting up and poopy diapers and leakiness and lack of sleep and NO REAL ACTIVITY OF INTEREST WHATSOEVER from my little one, I was wondering what, exactly, the payoff was. But we went camping sometime in that second month, and one night ventured into town for pizza. Abe was holding Charis in a standing position on the table, and she was looking across at me, and all of the sudden, there was the payoff: a real, honest-to-goodness, with-her-eyes-and-everything smile. Sure, she'd had those little, gassy, involuntary smiles, but they hadn't really meant anything. This smile was ON PURPOSE. And she gave it to me in a Pizza Hut in Attica, Indiana.

Fast forward to the present. This past Sunday was a really weird, difficult, confusing and sad day. I was dealing with some Self issues and some family issues that had come to a head, and I spent the better part of an impromptu drive over to Ikea crying it out, asking Abe to make sense of it for me. When we arrived, Ikea was busy and crowded and we didn't end up buying anything all that fun, and I was pretty much feeling like the day was a total bust and that it had been a very disappointing end to a weekend I had really really been looking forward to. The day didn't seem like it could be redeemed.

But then, bada-bing, The Payoff.

I had just fed Ruby and was gazing into her smoky blue eyes, trying to find a bit of happiness in her innocence and unconditional mommy attachment. We had carried her around in the front pack all day and she had mostly slept a very lumpy baby sleep, oblivious to the world around her. But there, in the front seat of the van, in the parking lot of Ikea, after a disappointing and teary day, Ruby gave me the most fantastic gift: her First Smile. A real, honest-to-goodness, with-her-eyes-and-everything smile.

A miraculous thing happened: for a little while, I forgot about my shortcomings and those pesky family struggles and remembered to breathe in those gifty moments of life, the moments that surely God provides when we most need them. I laughed with my children, because there may come a day when laughing together won't be as easy as it is now, and I laughed with my husband, because he is good for putting up with me. And I rode the rest of the way home sitting next to Ruby, watching for another beam of light. She didn't give another one then, but that's okay. She had saved the day with her gift, improved my state of mind, and become a little bit more like a real human all in one fell swoop. Things were definitely looking up.

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