My next-door neighbors, who just welcomed an infant daughter into their lives, had to make a trip to the ER today because she appeared jaundiced. She’ll be fine, the doctors said. She won’t need to be readmitted. They were lucky.
I was glad for my neighbors. But as I heard their story, I also flashed back on my Tiger’s first days. (This may be why parents sometimes seem overeager for their friends to reproduce: through them, we relive moments in our lives that might otherwise be lost forever.)
The Tiger, too, was slightly jaundiced as a newborn. But while today was a sunny, crisp slice of fall, he turned yellow in the late days of a golden June. The treatment was to take him outdoors, naked but for his diaper, and let him bask in the sun. The sky was cloudless. The air was dry and hot. I basked, too.
Medically, it worked. We, too, were lucky,. I was grateful. But what really sticks with me is the memory, etched into my flesh, of snuggling with him as he relaxed entirely into me, as if he were trying to approximate the warm watery cave he’d just left a few days before. In some ways, I felt closer to him than before his birth – maybe because he was now clearly his own person, and I didn’t take our closeness for granted. I no longer assumed a symbiosis. And that made the momentary blurring of boundaries all the sweeter. Also, it surely didn’t hurt that I, too, was finally warm enough.
Sometimes I think it’s those body memories, intense but often buried under the sediment of visual and verbal memories, that make us who we are. I realize I’m privileged to have had lots of good body memories. I would wish that for everyone, because the habits and memories of the flesh constitute our deepest selves, and yet we are largely at their mercy.