Saturday, July 5, 2008

So pretty, these teardrops

Two of our son's most pleasing features, if you believe his mother, can be glimpsed only when he's crying.

Every baby, it must be said, has his outstandingly cute characteristics. It might be his button nose, his ridiculously long lashes or a dimple that dapples into view when he smiles. But few babies, we wager, camouflage their most adoring aspects as well as Sonny, who hides them within the miniature hurricane that is an infant on a wailing streak.

Once such a streak is underway, one thing that Mum finds ever so endearing are the great big teardrops that get generated. Sure, it's heartbreaking, she'll quickly add... but so cute too.

The display begins when the first transparent glistenings peek out from the lower edges of Sonny's eyes. There's nothing prize-winning about these orbs themselves - they are neither especially large nor unusually expressive. But squeezed out of them, as Sonny escalates his wails, are little droplets of clear liquid that grow larger and more perfectly round. A hypnotic contrast emerges between the chaos of Sonny's agitation and these crystal poolings, which are like ponds in a zen garden. Fleeting is the moment. Soon enough, gravity takes hold and the tears break free - initially fleeing to the bridge of his nose, then - melodramatically - down his face. Wet tracks are left to mourn their passing.

If there is a certain visual poetry to Sonny's tears, the other characteristic that Mum finds irresistible is to be enjoyed by the ear. As the volume of Sonny's protests rises, there comes a point when sobs are woven into yells, and give birth to long gurgling trills that issue from the throat. These may tug at the heartstrings, but they are also strangely musical - like the call of some confused bird that has become utterly lost in an unfamiliar land. Typically, the trills die down raggedly, as though Sonny's spirit has been broken by our cruelty. The silence never lasts, however.

If the revelation of Sonny's 'cutest aspects' proves anything at all, it may simply be that beauty can be found in the most unlikely places and moments. In even the densest of concrete jungles or harshest of deserts , surprises to gladden the heart may await. But the innocence of infancy is perhaps especially likely to harbour unlikely moments of magic: An adult in tears, all else being equal, will likely call forth quite a different aesthetic response. The chances are good that, within a few months, the mysterious allure that attaches to Sonny's crying jags will have dissipated.

But at least Mum's had her chance to savour it.