Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baby Talk

Anyone who reads this blog weekly knows that I am absolutely smitten with my granddaughter. A hug and a smile from her completes me.

I love to watch her and learn again lessons that should be second-nature to me, but with her and through her, I realize anew how essential are those lessons.

First, applause delights. My husband and I purchased a small stepstool for our grandchild, one that features her first name as letters in a puzzle. She’s only a year old so she doesn’t recognize her name or individual letters. They are just shapes, but shown that she can remove and replace them, she began to try to do so.

The letters fit tightly together though. They were tough to pull free, but she persevered, using her finger as a lever. When she at last despaired of succeeding, I showed her how to use two fingers, and she was grateful. Her brow relaxed as she renewed her efforts to pull a letter from the ten snugly fit together spelling her name. When she brought forth one, I cheered her name and applauded. She lifted her head and grinned, delighted to be centered in a spotlight of success. She liked the reward and bent to reproduce the feeling, tugging at another letter, then dropping it to clap hands for herself.

I know, of course, how effective pats on the back are. I know how much I enjoy receiving acknowledgement for my efforts. We all occasionally live and die by please and thank you, but we speak them less often as the years pass. We forget to appreciate the struggle to put interesting, healthy meals on the table. We fail to honor the well-made bed and towels folded neatly over the rack. We shouldn’t. We should endeavor to put each other in the spotlight of success at every opportunity.

Second, my granddaughter reminds me that any place can be the right place for a nap. Soft blankets and pillows are not just right, but best. One particular blanket, a gift from my daughter, is flannel, the kind of flannel that grows softer with every wash. This one is soft and thick, a perfect protective layer for the metal rails in which the glass doors separating our living area from the outdoor deck slide open and closed. These are tough for little knees and bare feet so we fold the blanket across them, making the passage painless and smooth--except that my granddaughter never fails to stop and press her cheek against the soft flannel, breathing on the relaxation of the moment and texture.

I too am fond of textures and colors, especially in places where I rest. I like Egyptian cotton with as many stitches per inch as humanly possible. I prefer azure blues or soft neutrals or the colors of twilight skies. With their influence, my eyes want to close, and my mind flees to the land of dreamy dreams to renew itself for another day.

Some would call fabric choices and paint colors indulgences. Maybe they are, but my granddaughter would say, if she could, that indulging yourself and immersing yourself in the moment is a solid path to self-discovery.

Finally, my granddaughter reminds me that I should give new experiences a try, but also say “no, thanks” if it’s just not for me. She tries foods offered to her without hesitation, and her adventurous nature rewards her more often than it punishes her. I too have been gracious when my hosts offered something exotic. In Tokyo, for example, a guest at an elaborate banquet, I found shark cartilage on the menu. Overcoming my sympathy for the overfished shark and my antipathy for ingesting cartilage, I tried a bite and judged it a 10 on a Scale of Disgusting foods. I didn’t spit it out, as I once did poi, and I didn’t gag as I did upon attempting calf’s liver and cuttlefish, but I wanted to do both. Shark cartilage, it seemed to me, resembles plastic twist ties. But I tried it and now know it’s not for me. I have no regrets about never eating another bite and better still, no regrets about how I treated my hosts.

Bucerias, Mexico: Shooting into the Sun at Sundown, 2010

I gave Sayulita, Mexico a try during the rainy season and have no regrets about saying I loathe it there at that time of year. I tried Progresso, Mexico in the summer and have no desire to return. The tropics are not kind to me. I sweat and feel my good humor leak from me with every drop. I grow crabby and dispirited. Give me snow and gray skies instead. But I learned this by giving new experiences a try, then saying “no, thanks” as needed.

So take a lesson from babies. They may not be verbal yet, but they know a lot about life.