Mid-day in the kitchen and Opal is in the baby-blue sling. She is facing my chest and there is a burgeoning shoot of hair placed right under my chin like a feather under the nose. She has woken from the twenty-minute nap that required an hour and a half of focused effort to induce. I am unloading the dishwasher with my left hand while supporting her little noggin with my right, assuming positions that are an obvious compromise to my body mechanics. I am singing a sort of rhythmic, chant-version of "Low Rider" by the band War, emphasizing the beats that accompany the squatting and the reaching with a slight grunt. It does the trick until I place the very last glass into the cupboard and then she is ready for a new song from the mama-juke box .
Pushing the stroller on a warm, crystalline day and the sun seems to drip from the branches and grass, pooling onto the sidewalk like a mirage. The snow and ice have all but melted so the path is smooth but for the grooves in the pavement that tap under the wheels like the beat of a metronome. The dog is tied to the handle with a kelly green leash. A blanket is arranged and re-arranged meticulously over the carriage that Opal sits in, facing me, to block the sun as we shift and turn while at the same time allowing her to see my face with the sky as the backdrop. She cries for the vast majority of the walk, in varying degrees. She currently spends most of the time in her carriage either protesting and wanting to be out or sleeping. There is no real medium in this case.
I begin to sing the lyrics "Ooh lordy, got troubles so hard. ooh lordy got troubles so hard. Don't nobody know my troubles but god. Don't nobody know my troubles but got" because she took a special liking to this track while we danced to a Moby cd a few days earlier after her bath. I am singing at full volume and getting amused looks from the passersby.
She continues to cry, but it feels much better to participate in the moment with her instead of avoiding it or ignoring her, to be using my voice in my way as she uses hers in her way, harmonizing and aligning the parts as the sidewalk taps out beneath us.
I am about to change Opal's diaper. She glances at herself in the mirror next to the changing table and gazes at the string of faux-butterflies that drape above her. I am perky, chatting with her as I reach for the proper supplies, admittedly a bit on auto-pilot as I go to unsnap her Ducky-jammies. She then grabs my hand with the obvious motivation to get my attention, as if tapping me on the shoulder, and it works. She grips my fingers and looks me straight in the eyes, as if to say, "Hey, I just want you to know that I know you're my mommy. And I love you." and she holds onto my eyes for plenty long enough for this message of recognition to be conveyed and to sink in. Deeply. My mind went completely blank as we stood there staring at one another in awe, until she gently turned away and I reached for a diaper, smiling and regaining my breath.