On our recent visit to Michigan, my sister Kate dubbed Ainsley "Everyone's Baby." Kate would snatch Ainsley up and whisk her away to eat pancakes. Ainsley never uttered a word of protest.
We spent a day with my younger sister, Karen. Within minutes Ainsley was running around saying "Karwon! Karwon!" Maybe it was all the cool togs Auntie Karwon bought her. They formed a bond in an instant.
At home Ainsley has a few favorites she'll dash off to see. Daddy is number one, of course, but Tim rates right on up there. "Aunt Patti" was one of her first two word combinations.
Once in a while I'll have a twinge of worry bordering on hurt feelings that "Everyone's Baby" seems such an apt moniker. What about me, I wonder. Fifteen weeks of nausea, six hours of labor, sixteen months of nursing -- doesn't that buy me a little loyalty? I don't necessarily want her to be "Everyone's Baby." She's my baby.
I've known kids who couldn't be left with anyone. My now sixteen-year-old niece would shriek non-stop from the time her mother left the room until she returned. We joked that Hannah had a mental Rolodex with a photo of every babysitter in southeastern Michigan. The babysitter would walk in and the wailing would commence. My other sister -- Hannah's aunt, not her mom -- babysat one night and was determined to get Hannah calm. Karen finally loaded a sobbing Hannah into her car seat and said, "I have more gas than you have energy," and proceeded to drive around the neighborhood for an hour.
Hannah never stopped.
By about four, Hannah had grown out of this. I remember watching her in swimming lessons. She was a tiny mite of a thing who could keep one nostril above water if she stood on her tip toes. She was determined to stay in the class. When Hannah was five she flew on a plane by herself from Detroit to Atlanta to spend a week with me. This child most people would have called clingy -- Nobody but Mom's Baby -- was suddenly confident and ready to face the world. Maybe she needed that extra closeness.
Yesterday our AC on the bedroom side of the house blew out thanks to an army of ants that took up residence in the wiring. The temperature had topped 95 degrees that afternoon. The house was sticky. About two in the morning, I was awakened by a tiny voice that quietly called, "Mama." Just once. Very quietly.
Is there a sweeter sound than that?
A friend of mine was consoling me over the issue of Ainsley being "Everyone's Baby." When the going gets rough, my friend shared, Ainsley will call for Mama.
And so she did.