“Miette,” I’ve been told, means “little crumb” in French. It is also a diminutive for “Marguerite,” the French for my mother’s name. Miette is my sister and brother-in-law’s first baby, and the first grandchild in our immediate family. At seven weeks, she’s still small enough to seem like a crumb of a being, with all the angles and substance of a full-sized loaf but seemingly fragile and easy to lose. But I was also surprised by the vigor with which she rubs her face across my shoulders when she’s awake and strikes the air with tiny hands. My first night in Idaho, after two days of travel to get here, I went over to my sister’s place, and held the baby for the first time. I fed her, too, and I can’t remember ever feeding a baby. (My sister’s already promised to show me how to change her diapers, the other end of all that feeding business.) Miette pulled at the bottle with eagerness and strength. “She’s not as fragile as you’d think,” my sister says as she nibbles one of Miette’s ears, which are dainty and pretty beneath a surprising shock of dark hair.
Miette relaxes into the curves and contours of whatever you rest her on: the nook of your shoulder, the long valley of your parallel legs, the diamond of space between your joined foot-soles and your hips while sitting on the floor. She’s happy draped over your chest, muttering her regular squeaks and chirrups as she sleeps, and happy in the corner of a futon couch, tucked under an indian blanket. She is an incredibly happy baby, easy-going, adorable, unfretful.
Happy holidays, Miette. This year, and for many more.