The smile of the angels (and other baby expressions)

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Whenever I watch Nicholas sleep, I think of my brother-in-law Matt, who says I always have an angelic smile on my face. I’m never sure that it’s actually a compliment…besides, anyone else in the world (particularly my family) would look at you as if you were crazy for suggesting such a thing, because I most definitely do NOT always smile, and even when I do it hardly qualifies as angelic.

 Nicholas, on the other hand…Well, OK, he also grimaces in his sleep, and whimpers (mostly when an older sibling <ahem JULIANNA> is lying or sitting on him or smacking his tummy). But all that aside, he has such a universally good-natured look on his face that he does look like he’s smiling most of the time. Especially in his sleep.

 Babies do not smile, according to the experts, until sometime in the second month. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Babies smile from day one, but those are not real smiles; they’re called “reflexive” or “spontaneous” smiles. My Grandma Luth has a much better name: the smile of the angels. That’s what I see when Nicholas smiles in his sleep. It’s as if he exists in some mystical place between Heaven and Earth, able to see into both realities.

 I keep waiting for the “real” smile to pop out, because I know he is smiling already on the inside. I can see it in his eyes, in the brightness of his face, as if he’s trying, but his muscles don’t quite know how to obey. I smile like a maniac at him every time his gaze fixes on me. I keep hoping one of these days he’ll just smile back. I can’t wait.

 I know, it sounds angelic, but there’s a little sprite in there too. He just looks like he knows something. Occasionally it’s downright unsettling; I think, Baby, what do you know that I don’t? He has an uncanny knack for knowing when people are talking about him. No matter how deep asleep he is, the instant someone coos, “Oh, he’s so precious!” at least one corner of his mouth—if not both—curl upward.

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Smug. Downright smug, even in his sleep. Even at six weeks old. I can’t imagine what a ham he’s going to be when he gets old enough to break hearts!

 And I would be remiss if I failed to mention his Elvis mouth. It’s so perfect an imitation of the King that he looks like he’s going to skip “Ma-ma” and “Da-da” and go straight to “Thank you—thank you very much.”

 At the moment, however, the expression on his face is bright-eyed and involves chewing on a fist, which conveys a much simpler message. This one, at least, I know how to interpret!

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