Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BRAG (04/20/17)
TITLE: Just Fine
By Jan Ackerson
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Kristin meets Ruthie at the door, with Kenzie snuggled to her chest in one of those contraptions made of straps and trendiness. “Come in!” she says. “That was such a long drive! Lillian will want to nurse right away, won’t she?”
Ruthie steps inside, struggling a bit with Lillian’s sleepy weight and the bulky diaper bag. “I’m not nursing her,” she says. “It didn’t work for us.”
Kristin’s lips purse in momentary disapproval, but she takes the bottles that Ruthie gives her to put in the refrigerator. “My lactation consultant said she’d never seen a newborn nurse as vigorously as Kenzie,” she says. “Nothing to it! But anyway. Whatever. Come see the nursery!”
Ruthie hoists Lillian, now mostly awake, onto her shoulder and follows Kristin down the hallway. She’d rather see Kenzie than the nursery, but Kristin is prattling about decorators and motion-sensing nanny cams. Ruthie nods and makes appropriate noises at the dazzling dove-and-yellow nursery, now shifting Lillian to the other shoulder.
“Oh!” Kristin says. “Let’s put the babies on the floor for tummy time. Lillian will want to show Auntie Kristin how she can roll over, I’m sure, and I have a spinach salad and some cantaloupe for us. It’s great for nurs…well, it’s just great. Look, I’ve got this adorable play mat.”
Ruthie hasn’t heard anything past roll over, though. While Kristin undoes the complicated straps of Kenzie’s carrier, Ruthie puts Lillian on the mat and mentally turns the pages of the baby book she’d bought last year. She hasn’t looked at it much: at six months, should Lillian be rolling over? Lillian’s a placid baby who tends to stay put, neither crying nor moving much. Ruthie has considered herself blessed, but…
Kristin places Kenzie beside her cousin on the mat, with a complicated toy nearby that’s both lighting up and playing music. Kenzie lifts her head, then pushes up on her little hands, her back arched. After a moment, she leads with her little bald head and her body follows, landing her on her back, close to the tantalizing toy.
“Isn’t she amazing?” says Kristin. “She’s been doing that for a week now. When did Lillian start to roll over? Kenzie’s pediatrician says she’s off the charts, developmentally. All her milestones so far are either early or on time.”
The two women look at the babies on the floor. Kenzie is now fingering the toy; she’s very close to being able to pick it up. Lillian has put her head down on the mat and looks as if she might fall asleep again.
“Well.” Kristin clears her throat. “They all develop differently, you know. My friend Judith says her baby was smiling at three weeks old, but Kenzie was five weeks before she smiled.” She pauses to give Ruthie a chance to add her own statistic, but Ruthie slides to the floor and fiddles with one of Lillian’s socks. Lillian smiled at me the day before my birthday. She was three months old.
A weighted silence hangs in the air between the women, and then, to her amazement, Ruthie sees Kristin do an astonishing thing. She watches as Kristin sheds superficiality like a heavy garment, joining Ruthie on the floor and gathering Lillian onto her lap. “Hello, sweetheart,” she says. “I’m your Aunt Kristin, and that’s your little cousin.” She turns Lillian in her lap and waggles her hand, as if she’s waving, then settles the baby on her thighs, her knees bent. “You haven’t met Uncle Matt yet, but you know what he’s best at? Syncopated snoring. And you know what I’m best at? Making silly faces.” She waggles her tongue, and Lillian grins. “Your mama—she’s the best at lots of things…” and here she looks at Ruthie, her eyes full of apology. “…but mostly sweetness. Is that where you got it? Hmmm?”
Ruthie is pretty sure that Lillian’s just a baby doing things on her own time. But even if not…she thinks that as something to excel in, sweetness will do just fine.
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