Feb 15, 2018, 10:00AM

Watching Elmo

Life raising an infant.

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The brownies are halfway done baking. The baby’s asleep upstairs. The weekend’s over, though we can't be sure it ever really began. We’re one week away from eight months and four months away from summer vacation and her first birthday. We’re doing alright. We have wonderful moments of giggles and zerberts and food experiments, and we have exhausting trials of patience and perseverance. We are doing this together, by ourselves. Many privileged people, like us, have nannies or au pairs, or grandmas or all of the above. We have ourselves and our work schedules have no overlap, which allows us to care for her this way. It's wonderful. It's challenging. She will only be eight months old once. And we will have just one biological child.

Elmo stares at me from the countertop. He wears a consistent expression: happily surprised. You can almost hear Elmo's giggle though he has no heartbeat, no blood, no lungs with which to giggle. I’ve impersonated Elmo for the baby over the last couple of months. His high-pitched voice is tricky to copy. His words often trail into a slight giggle. All of this impersonating and giggling makes the baby boisterous. She reaches out for her eight-inch tall furry red friend. Her little brain nearly exploded when we were watching Elmo on the television and I pulled him out and had him talk to her from my knee.

I wonder who does Elmo's voice on Sesame Street. I think about PBS and how it became a punching bag for the extreme right in the last campaign cycle. Such insanity that the benevolent folks of public broadcasting became a topic of controversy when it comes to a national budget. Our schools crumble while we flood the military with funds. Elmo looks on, happily surprised.

There’s mystery and joy in parenting an infant. Life is often discovery, but it seems we only discover that feeling again when we sit with a baby, endlessly fascinated by her feet, by tickles and goofy sounds. I play peek-a-boo with her when she's in her high chair. I duck down out of sight. Her little feet tense and curl up with anticipation. Sometimes I tickle them. Sometimes I zerbert them. Sometimes I just blow a slight breeze onto them. This time I wait. Longer than usual. She is quiet. Finally, I pop back up. She startles then laughs. Gone. Back again. A cruel trick. Nothing is permanent. We notice absence as much as presence.


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