Sunday, November 22, 2009

Amari B Goes Public

Although there is no lack of inspiration in being a brand new parent, free time has become a scarce and valuable commodity - kind of like sleep. Amari is proving to be a true "fourth trimester" baby, which is to say she doesn't much like being anywhere except pressed up next to our bodies. It's as though she has an extra-sensory radar that tells her when we're more than five feet away. Sure, we can put her down and her periods of independence will sometimes last as long as fifteen minutes, but when the high from her last hit of breast milk begins to wear off, she makes her "Ummm, hello, I'm a new born infant that's used to the constant comforts of a uterus" noises which tell us it's time to start wrapping up the dishes and other "leisure activities" and get back to work. Putting her down is as effective as setting a timer. She'll stare off into space for a few minutes, find something interesting to gaze at, suck her pacifier rapidly, stare harder, begin to believe that whatever she's staring at produces milk, spit out the pacifier, start stretching her neck and rooting towards the object, then the "timer" goes off, the noises begin, and we'd better be done.

Exhausting as parenting is, Amari brings a wonderful novelty to formerly mundane, unconscious activities. A few days ago I was standing in the kitchen preparing apples for the dehydrator. I was staring out across the yard watching a feral cat sleep peacefully in the corner of one of our raised beds. I used to spend moments like this reflecting on the past - where was I this time last year, five years ago, or as a child? Even when the memories weren't good, the nostalgia was intoxicating. This time, however, instead of reminiscing about past fruit dehydrating experiences or where I was in November of '81, I was thinking about Amari. This time next year, she might be walking or balancing by my knee; when she's two she'll be saying, "Me Appow" as she reaches her hand for some fruit, by eight we'll be happily dehydrating apples together, and when she's thirteen she'll probably say, "I fucking hate apples, I hate you, and you can't make me do anything." Mmmmm, intoxicating future nostalgia.

Later that afternoon we took Amari on her first outing - a trip to the grocery store and the beach. We learned two things quickly: 1) Amari's a terrific traveler and, 2)the rim damage from last winter's pothole that amplifies the intensity and volume of our car's acceleration turns out to be an excellent pacifier. It's the best, loudest, most constant "Shhhhh" ever. By the time we got onto Highway 1, Amari was fast asleep, while Carrie and I had another tool in our slowly growing belt.

Taking Amari into public was fun. I was proud and practically glowing, while Carrie was protective and...well, protective. I imagine if she could have, she would have made people use sanitizer just to look at our daughter. Nobody pushed our boundaries - we mostly just got smiles and goofy comments like "Ooooh, a baby," or "New baby," or "Do you know which isle the dog food is in?" Stupid dog people. One person had the audacity to say, "Wow. You look tired," to which I wanted to say, "Thanks, and you look depressed and overwhelmed by the insurmountable feeling that life has no meaning," but instead I offered a sarcastic, "That's so nice of you to say." The next day at the high school and the elementary school, Carrie and I were both more relaxed about showing Amari off. Everyone was very warm, receptive, and loving, and nobody tried to touch her. We received gifts, compliments, stories, and countless promises that we would one day sleep again.

The best part of introducing Amari to the world is that people feel compelled to comment on who she looks like. A day after Amari was born, when I can honestly say that she looked like a very small, dark-haired, cone-headed, toothless old man, we e-mailed pictures to friends and family and posted a few on Facebook. The comments came flooding in, and it started to feel like a popularity contest. Who does she look like? I, of course, was rooting for "She's as beautiful as her mom," because who wants a little girl that looks like me? After few days, Carrie and I found that more often than not a person's comment or comparison could be predicted according to the following hierarchy:

1) Which parent the person has known the longest
2) Which parent the person feels closer to
3) Gender stereotypes - girls get the mom vote, boys get the dad vote
4) Non-partisan - the split vote, mom gets eyes and lips, dad gets more ambiguous features
5) Accurate - the few honest people who are willing to say she looks like a stereotypical baby or miniature elderly or Pod People from "The Dark Crystal."

My favorite comment came when Amari was four days old. I should mention that the morning after her birth, Carrie said, "It's too bad she got your lips," which is her kind and loving way of saying, "Too bad she's lip-less." Three days later one of Carrie's oldest and dearest friends (see numbers 1 and 2 above) wrote to say, "She really looks like Isaac, but those lips are definitely Carrie's." Hmmmm. Whoever Amari ends up looking like, she's absolutely beautiful today.

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