“This world is not conclusion; a sequel stands beyond” Emily Dickinson

3 Jan

Baby Emma seems normal. All you see is a one year old teetering around. She learned to walk not long ago. You see her pretty dress and thick tights. You hear her squeaky shoes as she totters around the room. Everything frilly and pink about a baby girl crowds your mind. But then you get a little closer to her, and you notice her misshapen head, how it bends out into a lump in the back. You notice her eyes, how they’re not quite symmetrical on the plane of her face, her gaze, how it can’t stay focused. You realize she’s not like other babies, but you’re not sure why. Doctors don’t know either. As she gets older they’ll run tests on her and try to place her within some diagnoses to give her parents peace of mind. Each year they’ll know a little more, but they’ll never know enough.

Looking at Emma is like looking at something you know is wrong, but you can’t figure out why. You squint, at first, trying to see if it’s just your own distortions.

She drools more than other babies. She cannot help it. Her mouth hangs open, off to one side. She has trouble holding the crayon I place in her hand, trouble making any kind of marks on the paper in front of her. Play peek-a-boo with her though, and you’ll see how her little mouth smiles, her eyes open wider and she’ll laugh, silently. Her older brother Robert, 4, knows she’s different. He puts his arm around her and gives her hugs when his parents leave the room. He gives her the bottle of milk their parents left for her to drink.

Her parents don’t seem to know the difference. If they do, they’ve forgotten it a long time ago. When they see her they scoop her up into their arms. Her mother changes her diaper. Her father kisses her cheeks and zips up her puffy winter coat so that she looks like a tiny pink marshmallow. Her mother puts a fleece hat on her misshapen head, and mittens on her perfect hands.   

I hear them—mother, father, Robert and baby Emma, squeaking, as they walk together down the long hallway.


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