More than words
January 18, 2007
Noah doesn't smell like a baby anymore.
I don't know when it happened -- but at some point, despite using the same old lavendar soap and powder and Desitin, he lost that baby smell. His head smells like hair, and his skin has taken on a new scent -- one I can't describe, because it's just his smell now, a combination of lotion and detergent and body chemistry. In a way it's even better than that baby smell, because it's Noah, the fully-formed little person version. It's like the way I can sort of smell Jason just by thinking about him, and the way I remember what my mom and dad smell like, and exactly three of my ex-boyfriends.
He doesn't look like a baby anymore either.
He's still got a round little belly and dimples on his fingers and elbows, but everything else is lean and undeniably boyish. His little bow legs have straightened out and the chubby thighs have vanished into muscle, and a thin coat of blond hair is growing in. I look at photos from just a few months ago and am floored by how different he looks now.
I want to dress him in feetie pajamas and onesies with teddy bears on him, but the only things that fit him have monster trucks and dinosaurs on them. So I let him run around naked instead, just so I can be reminded that his butt still has dimples on it.
He points at everything, and talks non-stop, but I never know whether he's trying to tell me if he wants something or if he just wants me to help label his world. "Mmmmeh! Eeennnneh!" he shrieks, pointing at some vague spot above my head, as I flip through the possibilities: You want up? You want to go over there? Upstairs? Ceiling? Light? Crown molding?
I don't think I ever get it right. He'll stand before me and talk very emphatically, with hand gestures and everything, and I hand him some juice and hope I was close. He'll sigh and accept it, while his eyes remain fixed on the refrigerator, envisioning the thing he really wanted instead.
I've never been good at understanding little kids -- to me even the Bilingual Sign Language Genius Child at Gymboree sounds like "Be ba be uh," and everyone around me shrieks and translates it as "Bye bye baby," and then I wonder if I'm missing words in all of Noah's chatter. I've heard mothers brag that they're the only ones who can understand their toddler's speech, and I always hoped it was one of those things that you just instinctually figure out, so in a way it's comforting to tell myself that he's just not talking yet.
The other night he woke up around midnight. I went into his room expecting some cranky crocodile tears but found the real thing. His face was wet and his shoulders shook while he sobbed. As usual, I didn't have a clue and flipped through the possibilities -- bad dream? teeth? fever? -- until I just gave up on the whys and took him back to bed with me.
He curled up next to me and sniffled and sighed for a bit. He didn't want me to sing or speak, but after a few minutes of spooning together he went back to sleep. I smelled his hair and fell asleep.
One day, very soon, it will take a lot more than that. I'll have to explain why we have bad dreams and why we get sick; why people are cruel and why people we love sometimes die. I'll have to explain why we don't say certain words and figure out what to tell him about the book of Bible stories on his shelf.
I don't what I'm going to say when that day comes, so in a way it's comforting to tell myself that he's just not talking yet.