One of my older daughter’s nicknames is Sparkle, so we’ll go with that for now. A quick story about her…
When Sparkle was a wee baby, we brought her home from the hospital (after only a brief debate). I was prepared for the worst. See, my first child (my son) was Mr. High Energy and allowed us to sleep for no more than twenty-six minutes at a time over the first year of his life. My boy, as much as I love him, was a force of nature, his wails slamming into us like a neverending tsunami. A tsunami on steroids.
So we figured Sparkle would be insane as well, right?
I had everything set up. I had my recliner by the big picture window in the den, I had my portable DVD player, I had a pile of DVDs I could watch and listen to on my headphones. I was ready. It was the middle of summer, so I was shirtless. I mention that not to make you shiver in revulsion but because all the parenting books talked about how important skin-to-skin contact is for a baby.
I placed my newborn Sparkle on my chest, reclined the chair, donned my headphones, and started my first feature. I’d even been sure to avoid liquids for an hour prior so I could minimize urination breaks.
Like a human grub, my little Sparkle lay on her stomach, curled up her legs beneath her, and nestled into me with her fuzzy head under my chin and her tiny diapered buns pointed heavenward. She lay there and lay there, and even when the vicious cannibal in RAVENOUS began murdering and devouring people, Sparkle never stirred.
This is uncanny, I thought to myself. And amazing. My first child never remained this still for this long. I’m almost halfway through an honest-to-goodness movie, and she hasn’t begun to shriek at me like Donald Sutherland at the end of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
I finished the movie, and the grub on my chest continued to slumber.
I replaced RAVENOUS with the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
Still no movement from Sparkle. For perhaps the sixtieth time since I’d taken my position, I craned my neck down to make sure she was breathing.
Yep. Still breathing. Just not crying or kicking or shaking her fists at me like Peter Finch in NETWORK (Hey, might as well stick with the movie references, right?). I got halfway through my movie and began to get seriously worried. Because Sparkle still wasn’t crying.
I licked my lips, debating. I was worried about her, but after all, this was what I’d hoped for, wasn’t it? I mean, had my son been this docile I might not have spent 2005 and 2006 sleepless. So I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the movie. Yet despite its quality, the only thing I could pay attention to was the barely-moving grub on my chest.
I felt a mental chill. Panic gripped me. I reached down as quickly as I could without upsetting Sparkle and called the nurse.
ME: I think I’ve got a serious issue.
NURSE ON CALL (voice tight with apprehension): What is it, sir?
ME: It’s my daughter. She’s a newborn. We just got her home and…
NURSE ON CALL: Yes?
ME: She’s, um…not crying.
NURSE ON CALL: (silence)
ME: That’s bad, right?
NURSE ON CALL: Is she breathing without effort?
ME (glances at Sparkle’s back): I think so.
NURSE ON CALL: Does she appear to be in any discomfort?
ME: No. Not at all. See, that’s what’s worrying me.
NURSE ON CALL (bemused): I’m afraid I don’t see the problem.
ME: She’s not screaming at all. She hasn’t slapped me yet or peed sixteen feet in the air or punctured one of my eardrums with her shrieking.
NURSE ON CALL (another pause): Is there anything else you need tonight, sir?
ME: So she’s…okay?
NURSE ON CALL: (click)
Sparkle continued to breathe gently. I sighed and lay back, more relaxed than I’d ever been in my life. Then I put in RESERVOIR DOGS.
Daughter, you continue to have that same soothing effect on me. When I’m worried or unsure, you calm me. Your smile, your positive attitude, your assurance that Yes Daddy, everything’s going to be just fine all work to achieve the impossible. You help me relax.
When I’m sick, you always volunteer to help me. You bring me a warm, very wet washcloth and slop on it onto my forehead. You pour me the Sprite we always keep on hand for sickness, and you always remember to pour some for yourself as well. You caress my hair and talk, it doesn’t matter about what.
You’re my little angel.
Sparkle, I hope you never change. Oh, you can grow and all that stuff, but never lose the amazing, warm, nurturing heart that makes you who you are.
I love you forever, my little daughter! Thank you for being you!