Christmas is over for another year, and as I tick over into my travel year (hopefully), I guess it’s time for me to recount my experience of the silly season.
On Christmas Day we gathered at my sister’s in-laws for dinner. At some point during the day, Kate mentioned that the sounds Maggie was making had changed in the last few days. They were no longer monosyllable, mono-tone grunts and groans; but rather, Maggie had begun to form sounds.
This is only the third time I’ve seen Maggie since she was born, and the changes each time have been profound. The first time, she was barely a few hours old; her scalp was still covered in foetal blood, her eyes were buggy and swollen and her skin pinkish. She seemed so fragile and foreign.
Last time she was conscious enough of her surroundings to be able to zone in on a voice, but she was for all intents and purposes still very dependent. The biggest change had been her growth—she’d probably doubled in size by that point. I’d been forewarned of her reflux and tendency to vomit everywhere after feeding, so uncle Ben wasn’t so willing to nurse her that time around.
This time (Christmas) she didn’t seem to have grown a great deal, however she is definitely more animated, and more mobile. The reflux has more or less stopped (though she managed a couple of good chunders during my stay); instead, as she cuts her first teeth, she now drools everywhere. She’s crawling now, and is on the verge of taking her first wonky steps (for now, she’s content to stand shakily against her parents’ legs, or a couch). She has a constant expression on her face that suggests impending mischief, and a ready smile. She’s curious and friendly. The fact she doesn’t yet have language is of little import, as her face is so expressive you know exactly what she’s thinking.
Mostly, her communication still remains in the domain of grunts and groans, however when she sees something that really interests her, she lets out a very audible hiss (or sigh), and then proceeds to charge down said object/person/animal. The combination of her constant drooling, which provides for unexpected finds with bare feet or occasionally, hands as well, with her hissing at things she wants, makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a very strange Alien movie.
Previous arrivals for my cousins or friends never really fired a paternal instinct for me, but there’s something about Maggie. Perhaps the closer blood ties, the knowing my own sister had a very major role in creating her, is what was needed to stir that instinct. During this visit I chased her around the couch on all fours, and then she chased me. Hearing her giggle and squeal with delight suddenly had me thinking of the day when I will be able to have a conversation with this little person she’s growing into, and that beyond that, there is so much to look forward to.
I understand now why when I was young, my aunts and uncles and grandparents all used to exclaim at how much I’d grown…particularly if they hadn’t seen me for some time. Back then, I never used to believe a person could change that much in so short a time, but it’s been just nine months since Maggie arrived and the changes in her have been enormous.
In the last day or two, Maggie’s sounds advanced that little bit further, and she began to mutter her first word. Inevitably it was to be that of one or the other, but her Mum got the honours first.