Her most common expression so far in the photos I’ve seen is surprise, pale blue eyes full of what looks like wonder, mouth round as the dot at the bottom of an exclamation point – as if she just can’t get over the novelty of it all. But the face of any infant is such a clear, such a perfect mirror: looking into one, we find our own faces softening, losing their worry lines, becoming – if we’re not careful – infinitely pliable.
Her proud father – my brother Steve – described the occasion of her first laugh. He’s carrying her around the apartment when all of a sudden she lets loose with a loud fart. They grin at each other, & then he answers with a blast of his own. She laughs. He laughs. Her mother, sitting on the sofa, laughs too. They all laugh so hard that tears come to their eyes. The vibration first felt in the bowels travels to the belly & makes her whole body shake – who’d have expected it!
Such an appetite for surprise isn’t given to everyone, I think. Or perhaps it is, & some simply lose it along the way. But isn’t this also what the snapshot photographer covets, the proverbial element of surprise? At first, it’s a novel twist on peek-a-boo, daddy’s face half-hidden by a strange box. He disappears in a sudden flash, returns just in time for another, & another. He croons the familiar syllables that must mean something like happiness, or what happens between us: Elanor, he says, Elanor! & trips the flash once more. Is this all he’s going to do? The last picture shows her eyes shut tight & a mouth open twice as wide as I ever would’ve thought it could go. Just looking at it, I too have to stifle a sudden yawn.
For some reason, I was under the impression that today was Father’s Day, and acted accordingly, gifting my old man with a couple of books this morning. Imagine my surprise when they told me it wasn’t until next Sunday. But I won’t be around next Sunday, so it’s just as well. Happy Father’s Day, then, to all you lucky dads out there.