Not right away. There’s still a couple of weeks to go, a little more time to wait. But it’s not easy. Not when I’ve been looking forward for this long.
If you’re a regular here, you might remember Simon. My nephew officially joined the family last February, in the week between Mom’s birthday and my own. Very thoughtful of him, that.
But Simon lives in Washington State. So I don’t get to see a lot of him. One brief visit out here, actually, just three months after he was born.
Long enough to meet someone. Not long enough to really know them.
I know, that sounds funny to say about someone so young. Who can “know” a baby or even a toddler? Most of us struggle to make that kind of connection with an adult when a new job or a first date is on the line. How on earth do you pull it off with a small child, especially one who didn’t stop to prepare a resume first?
It sounds ridiculous. Ludicrous, even.
Until it happens.
I’ve watched it happen three times now.
2010 was the Year That Cried Uncle for me, the year that two nieces and a nephew entered the world in a stretch of about five months. Over the last three years, I’ve watched all three discover themselves and the world around them.
There’s Ivy, the 3-year-old with the 5-year-old’s mind and certainty, enamored of jet planes and picture books and creatures of the sea.
There’s Mr. Gil (the honorific is required) who greets the world with wide eyes out of a Japanese anime, an effortless charmer with a mischievous smile and the smoothest dance moves a toddler ever produced.
And of course there’s Riley, the tornado in human form who lived with us for a while. It’s through her that we discovered the entertainment properties of measuring cups, cookie cutters and big red wagons. She’s also why one room of our house is decked out in “Caillou” trappings, just to warn future guests who may be terrified of bald Canadian children.
People describe these years as exciting ones and they’re right. You can practically see all three of them drawing in the world like a sponge, soaking up impressions and experiences and wonder.
But what nobody tells you is that it’s not a one-way connection.
Their wonder becomes your wonder.
Wonder smothers easily. We bury it all the time beneath routine and hurry, surrounding ourselves with the same people, the same experiences. It’s safe. Wearisome, maybe, but safe.
But watching a toddler chase soap bubbles for the first time, it’s suddenly easy to remember a time when “safe” didn’t matter. When it didn’t matter if you’d ever played a piano before, you just balled up your fists and had at it.
When joy was just a measuring cup away.
I’m not suggesting we go back to eating crayons in the living room. (Most days, I leave that to my dog.) But the interest, the fearlessness, the receptiveness of those times doesn’t have to be consigned to a photo album and a baby book.
To meet a child is to see that door open just a crack. To see a world ready for discovery.
Beginning with their own.
So, Simon, I’m looking forward to seeing you again. It’ll be good to get to know you in between naps – yours and mine! – and to start to see who you are, what you’re beginning to be.
And maybe a little bit of myself as well.
Simon’s coming. He’s coming soon.
But his welcome is already here.