My niece Lilah, at nearly nine months, is the chillest baby I've ever met. She's the kind of baby where you'd think, "Well, we might as well have 17 more of these, because it's a piece o' cake." I mean no disrespect to my own child. She was a mighty cute baby, too, but man, she wasn't easy. Lilah is the kind of baby who not only never cries, she never even looks perturbed. If you meet her gaze, her big, blue eyes break open like a Christmas cracker with sparkly looks, and the added bonus of a great, gummy smile. If you throw a stuffed ball to her, she'll happily fling it back for as long as you can stand it, and reward your repetitive efforts with unabashed screeches of delight. If you put a plastic stacking cup on your head and "atchoo!" it off, she'll laugh until she gives herself the hiccups. Oh, Auntie Sam! You're not only hilarious, you're an insouciant wit!
So hanging with her over Thanksgiving did not suck. I enjoyed spooning orange slop into her tiny mouth and strapping her into her fish-covered high chair. My dad said "Must bring back memories." Um, no. The day I met Jarrah, she was eating filet mignon and Caesar salad, and she was too big for a high chair. So this is a first.
Another first was staying up in the OC for a couple days over the break, rather than spending three hours in traffic on Thursday morning and schlepping home the same night, nearly comatose with pie head. We bunked at a nearby Residence Inn (how I love them, with their roominess and friendly smiles) and joked that having Jarrah around helps us take advantage of all amenities. She marched me to the Exercise Room Thursday morning for a little pre-prandial sweat, and all our warnings did not dissuade her from leaping in the outdoor (!) pool in late November, and then staying in there over an hour (twice!) because "Mama!" she shrieked as I joined David on the chilly lounges, "I MADE A FRIEND!" Of course you did, darling. Of course you did.
Her friend, Grace, was a year older but similar in height, and also Asian, so their hair matched. They had an absolute blast, and Jarrah was sad to leave her at the end of our stay. We had a poolside chat with her dad, who explained that they'd be living at this Residence Inn for the next two months. They're from Honolulu, but Grace's mommy will be undergoing cancer treatment at UCLA for a long spell, and his work gave him a temporary transfer. Wow. Spending the holidays at the Residence Inn, far from family and loved ones, fighting for health. That was a good reminder to count my blessings this Thanksgiving, on tiny fingers and toes, and to keep right on going after that.