Ama and Papa (my mom and dad) flew out for a visit last weekend to celebrate Papa's birthday by visiting the kith and kin and spending a little time in the mountains.
We convened at Panera bread for lunch on the first day of their trip. Ama (author's note: how interesting is it that I am now beginning to refer to my parents by their grandparent-names.) fed baby Opal cereal and mashed green beans, gleeful to be doing so, and they immediately commenced to that precious little inside-connection that babies share with loving grandparents. Opal delightedly practiced her most recent moves on her new audience. She threw her head back and crunched her little face into an ornery grin, exposing two (front-bottom) little emerging Stonehenge-teeth, giggling. She banged the edge of the table like a Djembe. She waved at every single person who passed using a variety of wave-styles from the royal-rotating-wrist to finger-flicking. She babbled endlessly as if the table-top were a podium and the lunch-eating patrons her congregation.
At one point a woman walked up to our table—gently middle-aged, with a full head of feathered-waves and a peace sign on her shirt—and drew a tentative breath before stating the following:
I know this is weird but I've been watching your baby from behind and I just had to look at her face. I had to come over and talk to her. Do you mind? Is that weird?
We smiled and welcomed her to say hello and she kneeled down in front of Opal as if she were honoring royalty. She then launched into a one-sided conversation in a baby-voice, as if the rest of us weren't even there. Opal watched, intrigued and grinning, before reaching to pull off the woman's glasses and tossing them onto the floor. The rest of us sat there in our amusement.
The woman completed the spontaneous bonding session by pulling out her camera and asking if she could take a photo. She said she had a child of her own who was in elementary school, a child we all noticed to be sitting just a few feet away, observing the actions of her mother as she picked through a bag of potato chips.
I couldn't help but to wonder if this woman, her mother, did this kind of thing often. And if so, is there a collection of random-baby photos in a desk drawer somewhere, tossed with dated holiday cards and hotel matchbooks?
With our approval, she took a quick photo, sans flash, and was on her way, leaving us a bit speechless in the wake of her flurry.
Papa said I've never seen people respond to a baby like they do to Opal. People don't just want to just smile and wave, they want to know her.
Later in the weekend, a similar situation happened in Estes Park after Jesse, Opal and I and all four grandparents had gone out to dinner. An older man scurried up to us and asked if he could take a picture of Opal as she sat cross-legged and facing out, slung against my belly, appearing as dressed marsupial peeking out from her pouch. Her hat was slightly askew. Judging from the man's red-faced elation, he was pleased with the photo he snapped as he practically skipped away like a schoolboy.
Grammy Zeb said, We charge for those, you know, as the man's fuzzy grey hair vanished into the crowd. The stop light that held us temporarily hostage at the curb finally changed, stopping the cars and setting us free to cross, chirping perkily for those among us who were blind.
The adults spent the walk back to their respective cars waxing about the affect this child has on people.
Earlier, while standing in the parking lot of our Estes Park lodging, Grammy Zeb studied Opal for a moment while collecting her thoughts. Opal's got that IT thing, she said. That, even at nine-months, she takes the time to investigate people, pay attention to them, connect with them in a way that most babies don't.
Ama shook her head in a gesture of positive agreement.
My dad referred to her as an old soul numerous times during the weekend.
During a long-table dinner, surrounded by a dozen Colorado family members who gathered over a feast of Chinese food, he said I think she's been here before. I'm pretty sure she's someone we know, and gave me a wink over his plate of sesame chicken.
Meanwhile, Opal clapped wide-fingered at Auntie Alex while wearing a sloppy goatee of pureed pees. As per usual, she was immune to anything cerebral and oblivious to anything but the Absolute Present.