In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
The nieces came to visit this weekend. The older niece is three, and the younger one is five months.
The glory of an infant niece -- I’d imagine grandkids work the same way -- is that you get all of the cuteness, without the hard labor. When Younger Niece made the untoward digestive noises they make at that age, I could look at my brother without guilt. And when you’re a few years out of having an infant around, a little one makes a great nostalgia trip.
There’s something wonderful about the way a baby nuzzles her head into you when you’re holding her and she’s falling asleep. The distinctive baby noises -- the snorts and grunts and coos -- bring it all back. At one point, all of the adults were just starting at the baby in her Gymini on the floor. TW was the first to notice that we were doing it; it was so natural that we didn’t even realize we were doing it.
The Older Niece immediately bonded with The Girl, and they quickly resumed being partners in crime. They treated us to some live, improvisatory theatre, in which The Older Niece played a princess, and TG played, variously, a kittycat, a dog, and a monster. In the way that kids always have, they gathered all the adults into a room to watch, announced the ‘play’ with fanfare, and made up the plot as they went along. (“I know! You be the princess, and I’ll be a doggy!” “Okay!” “Woof, woof! (pant, pant)”) They finished to applause each time.
Even TB got in on the act, being a gracious host and doting on the baby. He valiantly volunteered to air-mattress duty without complaint, and held the baby gently when he got the chance. TB and TG put aside their occasional low-level conflict altogether, acting as hosts and role models. TB got to feel like an adult, and TG got to be older than somebody, which doesn’t happen very often. They made us proud.
It wasn’t all smooth, of course. My sister-in-law had loaded her itouch with games for her kids; now TB and TG want me to do the same. (“Fruit Ninja” is the current favorite.) I may never get it back. And after a few days of sleep deprivation, even the best of us can get a little snappy.
But seeing the kids step up like that was wonderful. They were mature, sweet, welcoming, and utterly themselves. And getting a baby-fix without having to change a single diaper is a pretty good deal.
Now it’s back to reality...
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