Tonight, 21 month old G (seen here very, very sleepy, clutching toy Holstein cow) said “Henry” for the first time.
Like most mamas of one year olds, I run thru the list of important people in her life, encouraging her to repeat their names back, and clapping when she does. There’s Daddy, of course, and Aunt Betsy and Uncle Robert, and all the cousins. Also the grandparents, and then her older siblings: J, E, C and… (slight hesitation from me sometimes), Henry! Of course, Henry, too.
And while G’s babbling is still a little delayed for her age – maybe because she was born 6 weeks early – she tries to say everyone’s name. She got the hang of E’s name first (he was quite proud of that), and she’s added the others.
And now, tonight, I coaxed, “‘Henry,’ can you say ‘Henry’?”
And she suddenly grinned and blurted out a fuzzy approximation, and then she laughed out loud, obviously very pleased with herself. I clapped and cooed, and she did it again.
At that moment, I experienced this moment of incredible dissonance in which a baby I used to know flashed into my mind; there he was, inside a tableau in which a very proud, much younger mama clapped and babbled with him as he learned his first words.
When Henry was a one year old, he was always clutching a fist-sized, plaster of paris elephant he’d somehow acquired and fallen in love with. He called him “Bo,” because he loved Dumbo, the Disney movie.
And I felt oh-so-fleetingly confused as I saw the baby in my mind’s eye – the baby who was, juxtaposed with his little sister who is. There she sat, right in front of me, clutching her small plastic cow, and smiling happily at having said her big brother’s name for the very first time – the big brother I mothered with all my heart for 18 years, but whom she missed by only three weeks.
G is a force of nature, and I am so blessed to be her mama. She is a special gift that the universe gave to our whole family.