Long, Strong Toddler Legs

I’m a sentimentalist. Not the bad kind who thrives on “unwarranted emotionalism,” but the original kind; the kind who finds my feelings worth paying attention to. The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, edited by Steven R. Serafin and Alfred Bendixen, explains it this way: “‘Sentimentality’ originally indicated the reliance on feelings as a guide to truth . . .” (1014). I like that because while there’s always a subset of people who insist that all decisions need to be made rationally, with only logic, and with the removal of emotion, that’s simply not how life works.


Now that I’ve been “writing every Monday, no matter what” for 32 weeks, I’ve gotten in the habit of tucking little experiences from the week into the back of my mind; I’ll get a feeling that means I need to write about something, and it’s always right. This week, it happened on Monday night. Before going to bed myself, as I do every night, without fail, I popped into Henry’s room to check on him. In the fall, I’d often scoop him up, very carefully to avoid waking him, and carry him over to the glider in the corner of the room, just to rock for a little while. Even as a baby, he’s never been much of a cuddler, always preferring to be up and moving and exploring, so it was nice to have the chance for some cuddles.


So although it had been a few months since I’d done so, I felt compelled to scoop him up, very carefully to avoid waking him, and carry him over to the glider in the corner of the room. But when I tried to do so, he woke, and was, as you may have guessed, extremely displeased about having been disturbed. When I took him to the glider, his chubby little baby legs were suddenly not chubby little baby legs; they were long, strong toddler legs, with an impressive reach – far enough to kick a picture frame off the side table and onto the floor. Taken aback, I apologized profusely, laid him back in bed, fixed the picture, and exited the room, hoping he’d quickly go back to sleep.


Stepping out into the hall, I emerged from my daze, and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.


I hadn’t felt this way when we turned his car seat to face the front.


I hadn’t felt this way when he started to pull his hand away from mine when ascending or descending stairs.


I hadn’t felt this way at his second birthday party.


But I was feeling this way now, because his chubby little baby legs were suddenly not chubby little baby legs; they were long, strong toddler legs, with an impressive reach – far enough to kick a picture frame off the side table and onto the floor.


The tears came like one of our early evening thunder showers – all at once, and then not at all.


“‘Sentimentality’ originally indicated the reliance on feelings as a guide to truth . . .” and the truth is, my little baby is growing fast.

 

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