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THE NEW YEAR SMILES, THE OLD ONE CREEPS AWAY
December 31, 2004
 
Six hundred pounds of adults occupying 150 cubic feet surround Margaret, who weighs less than 10 pounds and, as far as cubic feet are concerned, doesn't make full use of 3. But size isn't everything, is it? Margaret commands more attention per cubic inch now than she will at any subsequent time in her life.

Her mother is an actress, and recently learned a little Chinese for a part. The President wants to leave the airplane,. she tells Margaret in singsong Chinese, Do you have a hydraulic airway? Margaret loves this, and Mary asks her about the President and the hydraulic airway thirty or forty times a day: each time the little face becomes one enormous smile

Q has a Japanese phrase he keeps handy for just such occasions, and he approaches with it now: I have nothing, he informs Margaret humbly, bowing over her tiny hand in his large one, but please don't hold back. She becomes thoughtful, as the self-effacing syllables pile up around her, her round eyes regarding him with grave kindness.

You are so beautiful! Yes, you are! Gordon tells her in a voice two or three octaves above his normal speaking tones. You're so beautiful! he says again, and she gives him her huge smile every time he tells her. We all work hard for that smile, and she rewards us all - Margaret loves to smile as much as we love to make her smile, so everyone is happy.

Oh, come let us adore Him, we sing, and we remember that it isn't hard to adore any baby, that we do adore them, that we sit and hold them and feel the rounded curve of their little backs, the soft peachfuzz of their round heads and we think that we have not felt anything so lovely ever, not ever. We touch their skin and it is so soft that we wonder if perhaps they might not have just disappeared, poof!, leaving a cloud in the shape of a baby where a baby used to be. Look at her feet, her grandmother says, and we examine them. They have never been used; the bottoms of them are as soft as the rest of her. Norah has a plaster plaque into which the little feet have been pressed, first one and then the other, so we can always see the size of them. But the softness? We must hold it in memory. It cannot stay.

The New Year is often pictured as a tiny baby: soft, open-hearted, not yet used. Ready to learn the world, and vulnerable to all its ravages. Tsunamis will come into this world, we warn it, tsunamis that will arise from earthquakes far from where you are. There will be things here you cannot escape. By the time you leave us, you will be wrinkled and bowed with age. You will stumble from the scene.

Impossible, the New Year says, smiling hugely. You must be mistaken. The world is too wonderful for that to be true.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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