It’s funny to think, but what I knew about Sibyl a year ago was that she had lots of dark hair and a vigorous sucking reflex. We didn’t even know her name. Now it seems like she was born for people, language, and music–maybe three faces of one Mystery?–maybe the fruitful void she’ll spin her life around? Okay, but it’s audacious to ask a question like that in public, stick to what you know:
I know that she dances to anything, bouncing up and down on her knees or head-banging like a rocker–even if it’s just to my singing. And I know that music can solve many of her problems.
I know she turns to sunshine when she sees people coming. Everyone at school says she’s such a happy baby. “I guess,” I tell them, “But I think she’s more happy to see you.”
I know she said thank you–“fanks oo”–when I picked her up from the changing table last Saturday, because she talks enough that I believe what I hear now. For months, I wasn’t quite so sure. She tends to use a word exactly once, so that I half-wonder if I’m crazy to have heard it–when I checked her diaper in the middle of the night and she said “diaper,” when I was picking up change from Rebecca’s cash register and she said “coins,” when I pulled down my bra and she said “oh boy,” just the way Tom does when he’s looking at something good to eat. When she sang “h, i, j, k, p, p, p” while she was playing with her sister’s refrigerator letters. I know she says “yeah” a lot, “yes” occasionally, and “no” even more rarely. The first time I ever heard “no” for sure was two months ago, when I asked her if she’d enjoyed her breakfast. “No!” And she threw up half an hour later.
I know more about Rebecca in contrast to Sibyl, too, because now I know that some babies do prefer toys to the recycling, and that not every 11-month old wants to feed her mother penne with a sharp-tined fork. From the time she was around 4 months old–about the time Sibyl started glowing at people and having long conversations with them–Rebecca insisted that I help her stand up like I did, peed when I did, and so on. She focused on following our models and learning proper procedures, which is why Rebecca communicated best via objects for a long time, and also why she had better knife skills than any other two year old I’ve met. Sibyl interacts more directly and doesn’t imitate schemas the same way. It makes her seem younger than Rebecca did at this age. Or maybe it’s just that she’s my baby..