I figure that forgetting early infancy is probably essential to human sanity. I don’t think anyone could grow up to be content and happy if he or she remembered how rocky the start was.
First you get evicted from your comfortable home and extruded into a world where people greet you with a thermometer in the tuchus and a pair of scissors for your only supply of food. If you’re lucky the food supply gets replaced by someone you’ll eventually call “mommy,” but she’s going to want to take that away from you too after a while. Before you know it, people are telling to that you have to wear clothes and only poop in certain places.
* * *
My daughter’s first word was a sweetly concerned little “uh-oh,” which probably should have been a warning. She had always been enthusiastically reckless, but suddenly she had new cause; she needed reasons to use her word.
She learned it rightfully, of course. Looking back on the first year of her life, “uh-oh” is a pretty good description of it. I know my wife and I said it enough times: “Uh oh, somebody has a full diaper!” “Uh oh, somebody dropped her toy!” “Uh oh, somebody got her finger stuck up daddy’s nose again!” “Uh oh, somebody‘s eating rivets!” “Uh oh, I think somebody has mutant super powers!”
Her second word was “Light,” which she pronounced as “yite,” and which wasn’t indicative of anything as far as I can tell.
* * *
My daughter has always liked books. Sure, at first she only liked to eat them, but she’s mostly stopped that. Some days I’ll see her reading on the couch, curled up under a blanket and happy as can be, and I’ll be so proud of her.
Then I’ll remember how reading is a terribly expensive habit. Bookshelves are like safes full of money that you can’t spend anymore. If I had saved all the money that I instead spent on books, I probably could buy a nice car or some fancy jewelry for my wife. Those things are less of a money sink; as evidence consider that both cars and jewelry are frequently stolen, which means they still have value. Do you know what is never stolen: worn old paperback science fiction novels.
Of course my daughter doesn’t care about any of that, and what sort of father would make her? I’m starting to understand why my parents spent so much time balancing their checkbook.
* * *
I’m not concerned that my daughter is smarter than I am; I’m concerned about how quickly she recognized it.
We were in the grocery store when she was only a few months old. I needed to find three things, but I hadn’t thought to write them down. Instead, as I am wont to do, I sang them to myself and did a little dance while I pushed the shopping cart. I suppose those actions alone justified my daughter’s response, but about halfway through the store I forgot one of the three things. I had gotten distracted for a second, changed the lyrics to my song in a fit of whimsy, and doomed my errand entirely.
As I stopped in the middle of an aisle and strained to recall what my wife had asked me to buy, my daughter gave me a look which clearly communicated, “Wow, this guy’s a doofus.”
Oddly, it was also one of the first times I realized how much she looks like her mother.