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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On being known

Last week, my mother-in-law, whom I love and admire very much, called to ask about a possible gift idea for AJ. She had found a really neat swing with all the lights and sounds and stuff that Fisher Price is convinced babies need on swings.

The thing is, we already have two swings. A simple one and a lights/sounds/overstimulation contraption. I sorta had to scratch my head a bit because my mother-in-law has been in our home very recently and had to become quite familiar with our ridiculous amount of baby gear. And honestly, I am just not a swing kind of mama. Granted, I have two of them, so it would be hard to guess that swings aren't my thing. It's just that I would rather tuck a baby in a sling rather than buckle her in a swing - and I find that most often, the desired outcome is still the same. Sleeping baby.

I was telling my sister later that day that I felt just a little bothered by this gift idea. I have a very close relationship with my mother-in-law, but her very generous, very thoughtful idea of getting AJ a new swing made me feel a little bit like she doesn't really know me as a mother. Know what I mean?

Juxtaposed against the swing suggestion was the arrival yesterday evening of my husband's gift to me. Our new camera.

I quite literally had butterflies in my stomach as we excavated the camera from its layer upon layer of packaging and protection. As we tinkered and toyed with our newest baby, I couldn't help but to reflect on what a meaningful gift this is for me. Not only did the man devote all of his share of the money given to us by our parents for Christmas presents toward the camera purchase, he also spent hours and hours researching what the perfect choice would be.

It made me wonder . . . Could it be that on all those road trips of our youth, when we would just talk and talk our way down the flat highways that cut through grassy plains of Oklahoma, could it be that he was really listening as I talked about the things I loved as a child? Did he remember how I had told him once how I so treasured the back issues of National Geographic my aunt would save for me? That I would drink in the power and mystery and beauty captured by those lenses?

And did he know that it was always the photography exhibits that called to me from the corridors of museums? That, yes, Botticellis and Jackson Pollacks make for amazing art, but what really moved me were the photographs. A hummingbird caught mid-sip. A new baby cradled in the arms of a new daddy. A village unconcerned with the advances of modernity. A brilliant diamond wedding ring on the finger of a hand dulled and weathered by time.

Eleven years ago tonight, a good-lookin' football player from Small Town, Oklahoma, slipped a diamond engagement ring onto the finger of his sorority girl girlfriend from Another Small Town, Oklahoma. Eleven years ago. Having dated for ten whole months prior to our official engagement, we thought we knew each other so well. I don't think my nineteen year old self could quite have conceived how much there was still to be discovered in that man.

This camera . . . it's extravagant. It is way, way more than I would have asked for or ever felt I deserved. But for me, it quite unexpectedly became a concrete fulfillment of that abstract desire I think every person shares . . . that longing to be known.