Gives a whole new meaning to the term “knee baby”

One of the books that I rescue from the discard pile everytime it’s time to clean up our family’s library is a children’s book called The Knee Baby. The flyleaf is long gone, and its matte purple cover, blank but for the lettering on the spine, stands out amongst the Dr. Seuss’s and Golden Books of mine and my children’s childhood.

It is the oddest book – its sentences have a strange syntax, but lyrical, and its illustrations, while beautiful, are nothing like the bright, cartooney drawings or photos you would see in most children’s books. Its story is one as old as time – new baby arrives, and big brother or sister is sad that Momma’s lap is now occupied by someone else. He has to learn to be content with being the “knee baby”, a southern term for the next to youngest child – which in a family of only two children is also the oldest child.

The book has been mine as long as I can remember, and if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear my mother’s voice, reading it to me when I was small. In hindsight, I suppose the book was brought into our home in part because there was a baby brother on the scene.  Now don’t laugh – the truth is, for the longest time, the reason I liked the book so much for so long was because of my little brother, but not the way you’d think.  You see, in the book, it mentions a buckeye tree, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Coincidentally, my little brother’s nickname, from my earliest memory, was Buckeye. 

We really have no idea how children think, do we?

Tomorrow, my own baby, the one who was my knee baby for seven years until the arrival of Daughter #3 is having her actual knee operated on. No longer a child, I’m going to hover anxiously while they wheel her into a room, put her to sleep, and slightly restructure part of her knee.  A knee I made (at least partly). A knee I’ve kissed better and band-aided and tickled a thousand times in 19 years.

They’d better be careful. Hell hath no fury like a momma whose baby’s hurting.

But after more than a month in a wheelchair, watching this woman-child tap into reserves of inner strength and resilience I didn’t know she had, watching her smile and laugh and stay determined to change the world standing OR sitting, I know she’ll be just fine. And I will too.

It’s going to be a long day tomorrow. Think good thoughts.


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