It's the shoulders that make me fall apart.
I never would have pegged myself for a baby-shoulder-aficionado, but it's true. It was true with my baby girls, and it's true with my baby boy. He's going to be one year old next month, you know -- a toddler, really. But his shoulders, so small under his smiling face, both defy and define time.
Somehow I see past and present and future, all bunched up across his shoulder blades. That sounds ridiculous, but I haven't ever been able to think of a more sensible way to say it.
Yesterday, this boy with his perfect smile fell out of his crib, probably in an attempt to flee naptime. I heard the thump, double-stepped up the stairs to reach him, and found him crawling across the floor, sobbing. He hiccuped and gasped in his fright, and I shushed and rocked in mine. The only place he wanted to be was in my arms, and he burrowed into my neck, apparently willing to become one with my skin. I rubbed his shoulders, my hand spanning their entire width. I seek them out even when I don't mean to.
Once he was calmed down, I kept rubbing and rocking, swaying with the rhythm of a soothed crisis. I laid him across my chest to cradle him better, stealing a glancing kiss on his forehead. One shoulder was lodged into the flesh above my elbow. Such a tiny thing.
And that's when it came to me, a tiny truth to match a tiny shoulder: they are the strongest, sturdiest part of him. A baby with fragile everything, with tiny everything is hiding strength in plain sight. This is why I see past and present and future in something as silly and inevitable as a narrow set of shoulders. He'll grow into them, broadening and stretching every year -- every day -- but even so, they're strong right now.
I almost can't believe I just devoted so much white space to a rhapsodical discussion of baby shoulders. Except I can, because I fall into gushing introspection each time I lay eyes upon them, and I can't keep these things to myself and it wouldn't be fair to you all if I did.
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