Papa’s Guided Tour
Through Imagination

JULY 2002

Saturday, July 20:

Growing Splendor
Walking Nicky to sleep became my favorite leisure time activity at the Shore this summer. It was a bit physically demanding—marching back and forth with 25 pounds in my arms to an imaginary Sousa -beat, the cadence of which I often manifested through soothing shhhs, the sound I hypothesized kept him warm and serene in the watery memory of the womb, which he was soundly regressing back to with each embattled effort to keep his eyes open.

At first, once the tell-tale shutters and wet noodle limbs set in I would usually attempt to back-achingly set him down on the bed in slow motion, but after finding that half my attempts proved futile, I began resigning to holding him through his two-hour nap. I would pick a sun-drenched corner of an empty bedroom, shaded by partially drawn blinds, and sit down with my back firm against the wall—Nicky cradled on my left arm with his angel's mouth agape, and a book held steady in my right hand.

Occasionally, I found I had to move to alleviate the masochistic pangs in my legs, which had fallen somnolent like my son into a quiet slumber. And, periodically, I also had to arise and walk him about again if either suddenly another kid in the house threw a tantrum or a loud bang was struck by one of the contractors at half of the houses of the cul-de-sac we were in, that apparently was designed for those compelled to keep up with the Jones's.

Even if this mini-retreat with my youngest was not all R and R, the task proved to be a serene serendipity nonetheless. It was incumbent to scurry apart from the rest of the hub-bub in the house, so by being forced to sit still I was able to combine two coveted pastimes in one: reading in peace and looking upon this beautiful baby of mine, who was dreaming of the unknown in my arms.

I once caught him stretching a somnolent smile that seemingly turned into a mouthed "Papa." As the sides of his closed eyes squeezed on the brink of laughter, I couldn't help fantasize that he was remembering a playful moment together.

I often found it troublesome that Nicky stirred to my dismay when I separated him form the natural concave envelope of my upper arm and chest. Until one time, when I realized why he clung to it and was so unwilling, even in his sleep, to separate—for it occurred to me that he could feel and hear the life inside me. With his ear to my heart and a lung, he was in that same realm of security that the sibilant rhythm of my pretentious shhhs offered him, while I mimicked the existence of the before-me and Into The Light.

This is why I came to realize that it was alright to supposedly sacrifice. For what I once thought as suffering, I realized was actually quite fulfilling—that is the opportunity to provide this nurturing comfort to him which his mother usually provided otherwise. This epiphany recurred periodically, having forgotten through the ache of a bicep or bleariness of 6 AM eyes; and each time I was flabbergasted by how silly my substantial efforts were to lay him down, to pry him apart into independence.

Thank God neither of our boys have known the confines of the crib; how cruel is this practice to put your infant behind bars, to imprison him solely for your own convenience, just so you can accomplish something—like sleep. I suppose that is not such a bad thing if you're unwilling to allow your babies to sleep with you in bed. We gave the first one a year in the "family-bed" and intend to do the same with Nicky. Enzo still comes back in the middle of the night if he's scarred, or simply misses the natural comfort of being with his parents. I struggle in my exhausted state between resigning to having his feet in my face by four AM, or a crack to my eye with his elbow by five; or having him startle us and worry us silly with another fall off the side of the bed on one hand—and carrying him back to his bed to ensure he learns to sleep ALONE, on his own, on the other.

I suppose enabling independence is not such a bad thing, for it certainly has been very good to me, but the process by which it sets in is a struggle, not only because it means sacrificing the one thing you often covet the most—sleep—but also because it truly seems so unnatural to methodically sever an evolving part of you, one which is a wealth of growing splendor right before your eyes.

how heavy this somnolence is

Close your eyes with my unconditional kiss,
and nestle into your angelic bliss—
dear infant son of mine.
Recline your supple back
upon this makeshift bed of my lap,
and whilst you nap, dream of growing up.

With your pouting lips mimic the suckling
of Mama upon whom you sup,
and fall asleep again amidst her charms;
pretend your tender mind rests assured,
while pressed against her tired arms.
And all this time meander not through what
your somnolent indulgence means to me,
for my heart is heavy when I think—
about your fleeting and precious infancy,
and how ephemerally this moment sinks.