She crosses the room with
hands high for balance.
Deliberate motion, with the
mechanical stiffness of a skill
newly learned. She’s at the
stage that she knows just
enough to acknowledge danger,
but she’s not yet in danger.
Jerky, halting, uncertain, baby steps.
She sways like a slender tree in the wind.
Bobs up and down and falters like a tightrope walker who nearly missteps,
playing the crowd.
Stands with her legs spread wide, a bad Elvis impersonation.
A slow starter, a quick finisher: first acquiring a shaky balance, then leaning forward,
building momentum like a rolling rock, rushing toward her goal which once attained,
she crashes into and catches herself like her forty year old father learning to rollerblade.
She is obviously satisfied—not only with her accomplishment, not only from the
praise of any adult lucky enough to view her progress.
This is terra incognita, and she is full of joy over this newest
discovery, the latest of a short list of recent discoveries:
Imitating dogs, lions, snakes, cats, and ducks;
Naming the features of her face;
Examining the texture of rocks, leaves, gravel, grass;
Filing, sorting, and emptying purses, drawers, laundry hampers;
Finding fascination in a floating leaf on a river, or singers dancing on a
lighted stage more vibrant than television.
Though she still drops to all fours to negotiate a difficult obstacle, like the legs of a dog
sprawled across a doorway, this new discovery is better than crawling,
a skill quickly tossed away as inefficient and boring.
This skill is so brand new the packaging still litters the floor like so much plastic and cardboard.
It’s an exponential leap, progressive forms of flying:
Walking to running,
Running to leaping,
Leaping to climbing,
Push car to tricycle to training wheels to bicycle;
And then there will be language,
deciphering the printed words on a page,
and eventually an understanding of place and history and time and story.
But for now, it’s enough, this toddling,
couch to mother to chair to father, like a
bird flitting from one safe perch to the next,
each foray drawing an ovation from the adults whose
world she slowly continues to crack.