Somehow You Already Knew

Dear Caroline,

One summer afternoon, when you were only a year or so old, our family went to a family gathering at my Uncle Leonard’s mansion in Brookville, Long Island. Nana was there, and my mother, and my cousins Peter and Danielle, and maybe some others, too.

We hung out in the backyard, near the swimming pool and the bocci court, but it was hot and sticky, almost tropical, so we shuttled into the house to cool off now and then.

It was our chance to show you off, our beautiful, perfect little girl, tucked into your stroller, the cutest creature on the planet. Certainly everyone admired you, and said as much, leaning over to check you out, taking you out to hold you.

But we had one little problem that day. You cried almost the whole time we were there. You cried inside the house and outside the house, cried during lunch and afterwards, bawling away at the top of your lungs, even then operatic.

We had no idea why – hunger? indigestion? a rash? – and nothing stopped you, no matter how much we coddled you and cooed at you. Inconsolable, you were.

At first everyone accepted your crying as par for the course. After all, a baby’s gig involves crying now and again. But your wailing went on and on. It became the sound track for, the white noise behind, all our conversation that day. We felt frustrated, annoyed, puzzled.

Finally, even though the afternoon was still young and we would otherwise have liked to stay longer, Mom and I decided we might as well leave. We gathered our belongings and started saying our goodbyes. And before we even took a step toward our car, you stopped crying.

Just like that.

And for a second we considered changing our minds and staying. But no. It seemed you had sent us some kind of a signal. You seemed to be telling us we should go. It was as if, in being with my family, you had caught a certain vibe. Just being around my family, it seemed, had upset you.

How else to interpret the sequence of events at Leonard’s house on that hot summer day? No sooner do we get there than you commence to cry. No sooner do we decide to leave than you cease and desist said crying. One could see a pattern there, a cause-and-effect relationship.

It was as if you had intuited something, divined a certain truth, even though you were still only a baby. It was truly strange and remarkable, as if you had already come to understand my family. That’s why you stopped crying at that particular moment.

You realized that after being there all day, now you were finally going to get away.

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