On New Year’s Day, while unpacking after a week’s visit to my daughter and son-in-law’s house, I found a chicken in my slipper. A surprise gift from my granddaughter. It’s one of the animals from her Fisher-Price farm set that she must have tucked in there while we were either disrobing or bundling up in the mudroom. This is a new practice of hers, along with her indefatigable efforts to maintain a newly vertical life. Crawling is passé, even if walking means endless collapses to the floor. The determination is stunning. While walking precariously around, she clutches onto things she’s collected – a scrap of paper, a crinkly produce box, a ping-pong ball, a toy stethoscope, a cracker, a rubber duck, a plastic chicken – then deposits them in unexpected places. We have to keep an eye on all containers – cans, boxes, bags, and apparently footwear.
Not only is her speed increasing; she also craves autonomy. In addition to absconding with random household items, this 13 ½ month old burns with the fire of exploration. No hand-holding, no interest in following her grown-ups (not in the street – this way!) or abiding by their guidance. Fiona has launched, and every corner of the world is uncharted territory, calling her name.
Our granddaughter days were heavenly, and I got a pang of longing when my foot went into my slipper and ran up against Fiona’s gift chicken, that sits now on my dresser until our next visit south. The chicken offers a daily greeting and a sweet reminder of soft skin, delightful belly-laughs, intense focus, and a healthy appetite for pancakes. I confess, though, that it’s nice to sleep carefree, off-duty. It’s nice to put things down and know they’ll stay put. It’s nice to have the luxury of time to bask in my love for Fiona until our next head-spinning immersion in the embroiled wonders of toddlerhood.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.