If Claude Debussy were still alive, he’d have turned 151 this week. I know because those clever cats over at the Google informed me with the likes of their own animated banner: “Google” beneath the light of a full moon and set to a backdrop of the melody I’ll never hear again without remembering the times Elbee and I spent in that rocking chair listening to a steady rotation of the “five timeless lullabies” spewing forth from the likes of her musical sound machine. It turns out that after six months of listening to the very same mix while rocking a baby through nap time, “Clair de Lune” was the only song on that prescribed playlist that I could still tolerate. (Apologies, Beethoven.)
Back before she toddled (strike that, walked! strike that, ran!), back before she identified your “ba-by” by name, waved hello to dogs and could pinpoint letters of the alphabet, back before she gestured “no” with a shake of a head and “yes” with a nod, she was, herself, a “ba-by.” I was, myself, tired. I was tired of rocking my way though nap time. And so I longed for the glorious day when she’d put herself down for a snooze while I washed some dishes and listened to unedited hip hop on our iHome.
The day came. I didn’t know it was the day. I just reveled in how comfortably she slept while I dusted the furniture and watched the news. And then it happened again the next day and the day after that. And so on and so on. And then I returned to work and Elbee went off to “school” (which might maybe be a euphemism for “daycare”), and somebody named “Miss Jen” (whose first name is “Miss” or, if she has a last name, I don’t know it), helped orchestrate nap time. I haven’t listened to “Clair de Lune” on that musical sound machine in a very long while. I never rocked my “ba-by” to sleep again.
Partly, I miss the quiet loveliness of the times we spent in that rocking chair, the afternoons my arms went numb for the dead weight of a sleeping child. I’m sorry I was almost too tired to appreciate, in those first days/weeks/months, that whereas arm-napping goes the way of crawling, and the life cycle of baby to toddler is seriously so short, I should wake up and pay attention. Partly, I’m sad I only get to do this once. Mostly I’d never have it any other way. The remainder, I’m grateful I got to do it at all.
It’s supposed to be like this. Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.” Birth, death, the song in between. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. That sort of thing. In less than a handful of years, my kid’s going to go off to kindergarten. She’ll need me less than now but more than when she’s a teenager (or maybe she’ll just need me differently), and Debussy’s skeleton will celebrate its 155th birthday in Paris.
Until then, I’m counting on the ordinary stuff from today becoming the extraordinarily beautiful memories of tomorrow. Today, after work, we three went for a walk. I slipped out of my heels. I wore bedroom slippers with my dress clothes. My feet hurt. Elbee spent 15 minutes chasing stranger-babies in the park. Her park. (She has a park the way some kids have back yards.) And when she seemed ready, we turned in the direction of home. I asked her what sound a cow makes. She said moo. Her dad and I clapped emphatically. She clapped for herself. It was the first time she said moo. And I hoped that come the second or third or tenth time she said it, it’d still be so freaking awesome.
I figure someday she’ll say something more profound. Today, though…today, I’ll try not to rush it. To moo, baby girl!