You turned ten months old last Tuesday. Almost every other month of your living, we’ve celebrated the 16th with a photo and a little “Happy X month birthday, T-Rexy!” This time, I didn’t even notice. I was waiting all week for the 19th which, amazingly, I thought was your 10 month birthday. It didn’t even occur to me until the night of the 18th that you were born on a 16, not a 19. Oh, honey, I’m sorry you’re the second born. I’m afraid it will always be like this, my love. I’m not so good with details.
Yes, we call you T-Rexy. And we have since long before you were Brooks. You don’t know which is your real name. You answer to both as though it were normal for a baby to have two names. I rarely even consider the fact that I call you by the nickname of a dinosaur (your brother named you in the womb, in case that isn’t clear). T-Rexy is just who you are. So, when I shout across the room as you’re going for the safety plugs in the electrical socket…again, “T! No, no!” you respond with a the devious look of a child who of course plans to go for the pluggy thing again. “T” is your name most of the time these days. T-Rexy is second. Brooksie a close third. Of course, I try to control the “T-Rexy” calling in public. It’s a little confusing for people.
Right now it’s Saturday afternoon. Your brother and dad fell asleep together on the couch. Both are in heaven. I lay you down in your crib and seconds later you’re standing and screaming from your room. You’re not having it today. I rescue you, along with your “bup,” what August calls his blanket which is now what we now calls yours as well, and we rock together in your room, your face pressed against the blanket and my chest, your hiccups slowing into the rhythm of my rocking. Usually I sing old hymns to you in moments like this, but today Gerard Manley Hopkins is whispered from my tongue: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” I say. “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed.”
I move from that into Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sonnet (1928),” the one that sits framed in front of my kitchen sink: “I am in need of music that would flow / Over my fretful feeling fingertips, / Over my bitter-tainted trembling lips…” Babies always know good poetry. It’s in your souls still (it having been such a short time since you lived in the Secret Place where all the Art is held waiting…)
Your eyes close, your heart beats with the rhythm of the poets. I pray for you, the secret prayer God has shown my heart for yours. See, I know a whisper of a truth that I can’t speak aloud (not even your father knows), of what your life may be and how you may see the world. Don’t misunderstand, it is hardly a prophecy, just a knowing pressed into my heart. A hope of why your life has come to this world, why you have come to me, what I am instructed to teach you. I whisper it always into your crib in the dark, when I pray for your life. I whisper it before I say: “Let him love the things that You love. And if he wanders far from You, may he always come back home.”
I didn’t take your picture when you turned 10 months old, Brooksie: your long body wrapped in 18-24 month clothes, crawling under the coffee table and crying, stuck, until I pull you out. You pushing that little wooden cart with your unbalanced feet, working those round foot pads into workable walking tools. Your hands signing “More! More!” in the high chair while your mouth makes the sound for “bread.” “Behhh!” you say. “Behhh!” And I offer you what I can, often a little too late, a bit too rushed, a tad distracted. But you meet my eyes and remind me that we belong together, you and I.
I whisper it to you in the rocking chair…
“There is a magic made by melody
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.”
-Elizabeth Bishop, “Sonnet (1928)”