Great leaps forward

Sophie put her own pants on this morning. It began with her pulling her current favorite pants out of the laundry hamper. They’re brown with pastel polka-dots, and they’ve been worn three days in a row now, and I think that’s a sign of maturity: Sophie can actually keep her clothes clean enough to wear them more than one day in a row.

After selecting her only-slightly-dirty pants, Sophie proceeded through 25 minutes or so of pants-wrestling. She kept shoo-ing me back with, “No, Momma!” but I was actually trying not to interfere — though I admit I did offer to help her untangle her pants right-side-out once or twice. I think her “No, Momma” just meant that she wanted me to notice that she was doing it herself. When she finally did manage to get both of her legs into both of the pants-legs, the whole pants happened to be fully inside out.

Then she decided that it was probably beyond her abilities to get a shirt on, and thus she reached the obvious conclusion: no shirt-wearing today.

Apparently, today was Sophie Independence Day. It just took me a while to clue in. I had been planning to leave the house early to go to the zoo when the animals are awake and the crowds are sparse, but even I was reluctant to leave the house with a shirts-less girl wearing three-day-dirty pants inside-out. After offering Sophie every shirt in her drawer, to no avail, we had to take a break from that frustration, so we played some other games, like pile-all-the-stuffed-animals-on-the-half-naked-baby-to-keep-her-warm.

Eventually, I invited her to help me sort the laundry in the drier, where she finally found a shirt she was willing to wear. We didn’t get to the zoo until almost 11. And that was fine: Sophie clearly didn’t need outside stimulation, the house itself was keeping her and I both laughing all morning.

The zoo was good too: Sophie particularly liked the fish in the hippo-pond, a baby bear, and the lightbulbs lining the walkways. Also, the fried-chicken-strips at the zoo cafe. She came home and went down for a nap with no nursing, the first time since the Great Weaning that I’ve had to do naptime on my own.

Here’s Sophie’s other recent great leap forward: she has recently discovered my button box. It’s one of those little decorative boxes that has been sitting somewhere on a bookshelf ever since college, staying with me through every move, to Asia and back. Every time a new clothes-purchase contains a spare button or an old piece of clothes loses a button, that button goes in the button-box. I’m not sure why I keep them all. It seems a shame to throw them out, but honestly I don’t really use them for anything, except to admire them in all their uniformity and variety — which I only do whenever I open the box to place another button in it. Whenever I actually need a button, I usually can’t find it in the box.

My mother and my grandmother each had a button box, I remember, and I used to love to swim my fingers through all those buttons. I think I kept my own button box because I assumed that someday, my house might have a child who might like swimming her hand in buttons, too. It’s the same reason I have had children’s books on my bookshelf for the last 20 years, and “Free to be you and me” in the CD-holder. You never know when a child might stop by and want to read Thousands of Cats.

So I was disappointed, when Sophie was born, that she couldn’t play with my button box yet. It was far too much of a choking hazard. I showed it to her once last year and she wasn’t even fascinated. Now, it probably still is a choking hazard, but she is long past the putting-things-in-her-mouth stage. Last weekend, when we moved things around to paint the bedroom, Sophie found my button-box again, and this time she was obsessed.

She likes to sort them into pink buttons, white buttons, clear buttons. She selects special buttons to show me: the ones that are unusually large or unusually small or unusually lilac in color. She scatters all the buttons on the floor, then earnestly helps pick up every last one. She asks whether we can take buttons off our clothes, to add their glorious variety to the button box.

To me, this is a milestone: Sophie is old enough to enjoy my button-box. She plays with it for almost an hour at a time. Ben thinks the whole thing is bizarre, some kind of seamstressy OCD. I think it resembles my own childhood.

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One response to “Great leaps forward

  1. amysilverman

    Happy Sophie Independence Day!!!

    What a gorgeous post. I hope it’s ok — I’m going to print it out and share it with my “Mothers Who Write” class as an example of beautiful blogging.

    I want a button box. I think my grandmother had one; at least, she did have a tin box of buttons. I have a lot of buttons but I bought them on etsy and ebay; doesn’t count.

    RE: Passover, I love seeing the Jewish holidays through your eyes. I was thinking today about why I’m such a self-deprecating Jew. I think it’s that whole thing about wanting what you don’t have. Easter is exotic; Passover is boring. But not through someone else’s eyes/family.

    Thank you.

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