The next door baby has left the building, because he and his parents and all of his accoutrements needed a larger living space. I’m going to miss hearing the sound of a baby crying as I walk through the hallway. I’m going to miss seeing the stroller waiting for him in the lobby, two tiny sneakers resting in the seat. I’m going to miss running into him on his daily walk with his nanny, who cooed to him as they returned from an afternoon of reading stories at the library and visiting geese at the duck pond. Both dogs liked to sniff the wheels of the stroller when it came back from its walks, but they weren’t especially interested in the baby himself. Maybe if he had shared his snacks with them, they would have felt differently.
I will miss watching the way his nanny soothes him, and his Dad plays with him, and his Mom makes googly eyes at him, full of love, that make him certain that he is the most important person on the face of the earth. He’d just recently developed a sustained gaze and the habit of smiling at people who smiled at him, and I’m going to miss that too.
My niece and nephews are all past the baby stage of life, and firmly into the sarcasm years. People become secretive and duplicitous so quickly nowadays; the honest and straight forward self-expression that is babyhood is a very precious thing to have around.
Cricket was not happy when we went downstairs, without the dogs, for a goodbye party for our neighbors. She couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been invited, first of all, and she imagined all kinds of treats she was missing out on, that the baby was allowed to partake in. I’m not sure what Cricket’s vision of paradise is, exactly, but she’s convinced it’s the place we go when we leave her at home. And she’s bitter about it. Butterfly, of course, was fine.
We will have a new neighbor soon, and I’m sure she will be lovely (the baby’s parents were thinking of our cozy little building when they chose their successor). And maybe she’ll have a dog or cat or bird who I will inevitably fall in love with. But there won’t be a human baby, and his absence will resonate with me for quite a while.
When moving day arrived, the baby was whisked away to avoid the trauma of seeing all of his stuff being removed. But Cricket had no such luck. She could hear every horrible moment of departure, and she’s not good with change. She spent the whole day announcing the presence of the movers, as if she thought we hadn’t noticed the first few times she’d barked her head off. There was also the added difficulty that, if we tried to take the dogs out while the movers were still traipsing in and out of the building and along the walkway, Cricket would bark them to death, so we had to put off anything but the most emergent need for an excursion. Unfortunately, Cricket thinks that it’s an emergency when she smells a squirrel in the air, and she whines and cries to let us know her plight.
Even Butterfly added a bark or two along the way, to support her sister’s protest, if nothing else.
So it was a relief when the moving men left and quiet returned to the building. Except, it was too quiet. The apartment across the hall really is empty and the baby is not coming back.
Now Cricket is resting up for the next phase of the endeavor, when the new neighbor’s moving truck arrives and disgorges a whole new set of men and furniture to bark at. Announcing the apocalypse is a tough job, but, Cricket thinks, someone has to do it.