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We were all babies once

It has been too hot and I’ve been too busy with other projects to knit. So I’m writing about something that has been rattling around in my head lately.

Watching The Sparkle Girl develop her personality, acquire language and skills, and generally begin the process of becoming the person she will eventually be in this world, it makes me think about other people as babies.  Some people you just can’t imagine what they were like.  Others were pretty much the same as babies as they are adults.

My grandmother, for whom the Sparkle Girl was named, is one of those people you just can’t fathom as an infant, child or teenager for that matter.  It’s like she came into the world at 40 years old. She was an amazing and wonderful woman in so many ways.  Born in 1901 before so many mundane things we take for granted became widely available—-  movies, cars, telephones…  these were all available then, but not in the way they were just 20 years later.  She died in 1996 at the age of 95.  She was a complicated mix of prim Victorian and modern woman.  We called her “Grandmother”–not Granny, Grandma, Nana, or any other variant.  She went by “Harriet”–not Hattie or Harry or other nickname.  She really wasn’t sure what to do with us when we were very little and usually gave us savings bonds for special occasions.  An extremely practical and pragmatic lady. But she wore shorts while gardening well into her 80’s.  She was vital and active–mentally sharp up to the very end.   But what would she have been like as a child?  I just can’t imagine her as a carefree, uninhibited little bundle of chaos as all toddlers naturally are.

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There are clues though.  This is a photo of her as an infant.  I see little bits of my girl in there.  The tips of the ears that point out (like my father’s too), the inquisitive stare,  the dainty hand…   I can see that she was very intelligent, taking everything in, watching and observing.  I wound up with some of my grandparents’ books–my Grandfather’s Esperanto dictionaries, his McGuffey Reader, and Grandmother’s Eugene-Field Reader.  This is a cool old book with some gorgeous illustrations mixed with some less amazing ones.  She was given this book as a present in 1906 by a cousin.

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I love the handwriting…so stylized.  I also wonder who Helen was (I can’t even read the last name).  The funny thing about this book is that it has been scribbled in.  I find it so incredibly hard to picture Grandmother as a child taking a colored pencil or crayon to a book.  The very thought of it makes me laugh.  Part of me thinks it must have been my father or his sister who defiled it so.  Maybe it was Helen?  Whoever it was really didn’t like this little dog.

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Whomever did it was also learning how to read.  Several pages have phrases underlined in red, some words circled.  It’s extremely charming to imagine a small Victorian child sitting down with this book and a pencil trying to suss out the poems and stories. It’s also funny to see how much children’s literature has changed over the years. I just don’t think you’d see a modern book speculating about whether a toy soldier could fire a gun. You also probably wouldn’t see a toy with a bayonet on it.

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It makes me wonder what I’ll be like as an old lady. Will people see the sparks of my inner toddler or will people wonder at the fact that I was ever an infant? What will my darling girl be like as an adult? What pieces of her childhood can I preserve to capture these amazing moments of her development? I know I won’t keep everything (unlike my own mother who kept every single one of my baby clothes), but I should keep those iconic and special things that capture the essence of this bright, funny and gorgeous child.

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