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The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
When we first arrived home, the baby was taking a nap.
After eight months, however, our 3-year-old knew who the tall, bald man beside me was immediately, and practically knocked his sweet little grandma down in his eagerness to literally fly into his daddy’s arms.
Within five minutes, the little boy had his daddy tossing him high up in the air, because he kept insisting that is what daddies do. He’d been watching our neighbor’s toddler with his father a lot lately, and saw them do this ritual almost nightly. It was obvious he’d been waiting for this for a long time.
The baby continued taking her nap.
My stepdaughter, poised and confident, calmly strode over to him and carefully looked him up and down. Then, without saying a word, she flung herself into his arms, oblivious to the tears running down her cheeks. He held her, and stroked her hair, ignoring the tears in his own eyes.
The baby continued to snore.
It was a beautiful day when my husband came home on his two weeks leave from Iraq last week, and we spent most of the first afternoon outside. We talked and laughed and kissed and the 3-year-old continued to exhaust his daddy’s arms by getting tossed high into the air every few minutes.
My husband kept asking about the baby, who kept sleeping.
He insisted he didn’t want to wake her, because he said she needed her sleep and naps are very good for 1-year-old infants. But then a look of longing would creep into his eyes and I could see he was remembering the 5-month-old baby he’d left behind in the fall, and was wondering what she had become in the ensuing months.
Finally, I insisted I heard muted mutterings from her crib (I didn’t) and went and gathered our youngest family member in my arms, and presented her to her father.
He gasped in joy and surprise when he saw how very identical she was to her big sister, and expressed his shock over the amount of hair curling about her head. She was pretty close to bald when he left.
A lot of people commented the baby and her follicle-challenged daddy had the same haircut. He instantly adored her, and began cooing and making baby talk.
She instantly started wailing. Then she buried her face in my shoulder.
I explained to him she was somewhat of a drama queen, and he expressed wonderment at who she might have gotten that trait from, not even mentioning my myriad of high school plays, four years of college theater and my involvement with the local performing arts center of any city in which we lived.
I think my daughter will belong on the stage someday as well.
So, I let him in on a little secret that works wonders in dealing with our daughter: crushed ice. Teething babies will do just about anything for pea-sized chunks of crushed ice.
Within five minutes, my daughter had forgotten her world revolved around me, forgotten who fed her and changed her and bathed her and dressed her.
My very existence was nullified in her eyes. Her father was her new hero, and she devoured him with her hazel eyes as she slurped ice cubes in his hands.
I was demoted to ice cube servant only, allowed to approach as long as I continued to provide ice to her father who could subsequently provide it to her. And I couldn’t have been happier.
Later that night, there were tears in my eyes for the first time as he slept beside me. OK — snored beside me.
All three children were sound asleep in their rooms, my son occasionally talking in his sleep as he sang about naughty monkeys jumping on the bed. Other than that, and the snores emanating from the prone form on my left, all was calm and quiet in the house.
I realized, for the first time since early October, my family was exactly where they should be, and that everyone was safe, happy and accounted for. And I had 13 days left to revel in this.