Thursday, September 16, 2004

Scales and arpeggios

As I write this, Helena's on her way to daycare. I'm breathing a small sigh of relief, but it's confused by the anxiety accompanying the feeling that this is her first day all over again.

She's healthy as ever and excited to be going back. All through breakfast Helena was mumbling stuff about Marlène, her group leader.

Everyone at the center has commented on Helena's sweet disposition and easy-going nature, that she's been quick to get the hang of their ways and routines. There was only one incident on her second day, when the group was going out for a walk: her refusal to hold onto the rope. But by the following day they'd crushed her spirit enough to the point she'd follow along — she has a good attitude, they said.

So we had a couple sleepless nights this week. We also had much cuddling on demand.

There have been other demands. But we all get a little cranky when sick, and Helena has the disadvantage of not yet being able to make herself understood.

One night in the delirium of fever, I thought, she was crying and pointing vigorously, angrily. After many failed guesses at the intended direction of her flailing, she, though evidently frustrated, was calmed by my efforts. She pointed more clearly now while I carried her, following her directions to the kitchen, stopping at the freezer door. She clearly announces, "pita," so I pull one out of the freezer and she bites in. If only she'd said it 20 minutes beforehand... Who'd've thought that at 2 a.m. she'd be craving a snack? The poor little thing was ravenous, devouring one pita and falling asleep with a half-eaten second one in her hand.

There was another sleepless night of books. Although her behaviour had the air of delirium about it, maybe it was just plain tired and cranky and not being able to sleep. We sat in bed and she insisted that I read to her at least a dozen different books.

How do I know that? It's not like she names them by title. I guess we know their distinguishing features well enough, and we know each other well enough, that some things are clear. But at some point exhaustion took hold, and she fell asleep crying, screaming, "book! book! da book! book!"

All three of us in our bed. Because it's roomy, and we can't all climb into her crib for cuddling, and I wasn't sleeping in bed anyway — in theory I was up late working. J-F had dozed off and was lightly snoring. Helena looks over at him, then at me, and raises her finger in front of her mouth and says, "Ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh. Sssshhh!" I laughed so hard, I woke J-F up.

We watched The Aristocats about 10,000 times. If possible, each viewing holds her attention even more. I guess there's a familiarity factor that lets her explore new details each time.

(Helena's not much of a TV watcher. In fact, after 10 minutes of Sesame Street, or whatever, or if I'm watching Charlie Rose or Oprah in the afternoon, she's good enough to walk up to the television set and turn it off so we can focus our attention on more important things, like block assembling or teeth brushing.)

But The Aristocats are something else. And I played an active part in creating this monster, encouraging this kind of passive downtime, and encouraging this film above the usual TV fare.

I tried to trick her once. We don't have a huge library of children's DVDs (there's some Muppets, and The Secret Garden — it'll be years before they're shown any appreciation), but I did dig up an old video of Charlotte's Web (thanks, Janine!).

So I slid the movie in, and enthusiastically pointed out farm animals. But there's just not enough cats in it. Besides, why examine the rural life when you can see the sights of Paris? (That's my girl!)

Helena's favourite song from The Aristocats is "Scales and Arpeggios," to which she always sways her head from side to side and sings along. But she doesn't know the words, so she supplies her own lyrics: "Cat, cat cat. Cat, cat."
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