Gravity Works

It’s so exciting, watching a baby, a baby on the edge, just into the toddle, the toddler on the edge of everything, getting into everything. He must be watched constantly, and it is exciting and boring at the same time, this monitoring as the child tries, assays, everything over and over. We have developed a restraint. We call it a high chair and bundle the baby off to it. It looks downright medieval, this highchair with its belts and its sliding, lipped tray table that pins her into it. The baby, so encumbered, writhes and wriggles, all ampersands. We have learned to throw things onto the tray, distractions. Often it is cereal. It is almost always Cheerios. Why Cheerios, cheerless Cheerios? But it is, and the baby immediately responds, gasping and grasping, O-ing for the little o’s. They are like little stem-less keys, all thumbs, that he then inserts into any and all holes, tests the fit (nose, ears, eyes even). Even as we begin to remember something about the hazard of choking, choking hazard, the kid has found where the Cheerios work. The mouth, yes, that’s the ticket. And the child will commence to push all these buttons of oats down this open hatch. Then what do we do? We have played the Cheerio card. The baby looks up at us intently, a brown study of crumbs. And then we do it; we do it even though we know we shouldn’t. We dig deep in our pockets and withdraw our keyring. Now here is an authentic choking hazard, but we are at our wit’s end, too tired (and we can’t leave her worming in that high chair) to go look for the oversized toothy teething keys (pastel colored, soft-edged), designed and marketed for this very moment, when we are about to serve up our real keys. The keys spread eagle on the tray. Instantly, the child attempts to unlock this mystery (the empty vessel he is—ears, nose, mouth), scratching the tabula rasa of his still-soft skull. Suddenly, the baby leans over, off to the side of the chair, and drops the keys. They fall, make a confused clatter on the kitchen floor. Then the baby does this: she looks at us. She looks at the keys. She looks at us. She looks at the keys. Us. We know what we are to do, what we will do. We pick up the keys and place them on the tray once more. And immediately they are once more on the floor. Again with the looking. Again with the picking up and the dropping. This can go on, it seems, for hours. “Gravity works,” we cry out. But for the kid it doesn’t. The next release the keys might drop up. The keys are key as they fall. As they fall they open for us, they open us (if we can just get past the tedium) to possibility, that space to wonder about wonder.

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