Baby, I kissed your toes one by one, when they were the size of grapes. This one’s ripe, I told you, pretending to pluck it from the stem, and you dissolved into baby giggles—the kind that came straight from your kumquat heart, bursting out in juicy tangerine peals.
Baby, I picked up your spoon off the floor each time you threw it. I put it back on your highchair tray or rinsed it in the sink if it looked dirty. I didn’t scold you or take away your plate, not even when mashed sweet potato and pureed plum spattered everywhere, because practice makes perfect, and lost objects come back, and dropped things fall.
Baby, I put you in the clamshell stroller and pushed you down the sidewalk on sunny days. I put up the stroller’s hood to shade your petal-soft skin, and I lifted the little window flap and peeked inside—peekaboo!—and you shrieked and clapped each time you saw me, and each time I let the window close again, but you knew I was there.
Baby, we played the shell game—overturned plastic cups circling each other, a marble hidden beneath one, and you guessed, and I revealed, and sometimes there it was: a swirled glass sphere, cold and triumphant in your palm. Sometimes nothing and your mouth formed a little O and I showed you where the marble was, the cup you hadn’t chosen.
Baby, hush now, don’t cry, your whole life has been practice for this. Hold my hand and let it go. Kiss me one more time on each cheek. Cover your eyes with flattened palms and look again and see the world, just how it was before. Lost objects come back. Dropped things fall. The sun can still reach you.