There is nothing on earth quite as therapeutic as rocking a little baby. The silky cheek resting against yours, the sweet powdery baby smell of his skin, the impossibly delicate brush of his fingers on your neck.
Life goes flying by us, zooming beyond the speed of light or sound or love or thought. We hold a tiny one in our arms, closing our eyes to breathe in the tenderness, and before we can even release that breath, the baby is a woman, tall and strong and smart. Married and ready to hold a baby of her own. We cuddle a toddler close to our chest, one hand on his sturdy little back, another feeling his velvety curls. We rock and we dream and when we open our eyes, he is a man, independent and solid and standing on his own two capable feet.
We’re left off balance, blinking in surprise. Didn’t I just fall in love with that little one? Wasn’t it only a day ago that I first held her, kissed her, tucked the softest blanket around her?
As my children have grown, I have begun to wonder if I’ve lost my place in the world of babies. If perhaps I have lost that special loving touch that once made me the only comfort for those I loved so much. I started to feel that I’d been passed by, and that it was simply no longer my turn to rest my cheek on the head of a sleeping baby.
I remember a day, almost eleven years ago. A young colleague of mine brought her new baby boy to a meeting at school. I took him from her arms, and settled into a rocking chair in the meeting room. As the baby relaxed and turned his head to rest against my shoulder, I felt all of the tensions and worries of the day drain away from me. My arms still knew how to cradle him, how to rest one hand under his bottom and one behind his warm head. I rocked and I hummed, and the little baby boy settled into the comfort of my touch. I felt renewed. I closed my eyes, and breathed in his sweet baby smell, and I felt his tiny fingers reaching out to me.
But time has passed swiftly once again. Now that beautiful baby is a tall handsome fifth grader with a mischievous grin and the brightest blue eyes. He is in my class this year, and I am getting to know him as a student. That sweet baby memory is something that I have to keep as my secret, so that I can be his teacher.
Its been a long time now since I have held and rocked a baby. Oh, every now and then I get a few minutes with a grand niece or nephew, or with the baby of a colleague or the grandchild of a friend. But I have been feeling myself getting rusty once again, wondering if I would still know how to comfort and soothe, how to snuggle and hug, how to hold a baby in my aging loving arms.
Today my friends came to visit, brining their beautiful three month old son. He fit right into my arms, and my hands and wrists knew what to do. My back knew how to curve around him, and my cheek was drawn to his hard, smooth head as if by magic. My body remembered the rhythm of baby rocking, back and forth, from right to left, from foot to foot in a gentle, intuitive dance.
I closed my eyes, and breathed in his sweet baby smell. I felt his tiny gentle fingertips, so lightly brushing my skin.