I’m in a stare-down with a toddler. I lie on the sofa and she sits on my chest. She has already pulled off my glasses and she is looking at me. She’s been babbling non-stop all day but now she is silent. Looking. Deep into my eyes.
She doesn’t blink. She doesn’t realize it’s a stare-down. I’m not equal to the challenge. She’s not just looking at me. She’s looking into me. I feel her searching to the depths of my soul with her big, innocent eyes. And she doesn’t blink. Her eyes may be innocent, but they cut no slack.
“Who are you?” those eyes demand. She knows me quite well. Her eyes are asking the deep question that I haven’t even figured out yet: “Who are you?”
She doesn’t blink, but I do. My eyes are burning from her intense gaze. And I can’t keep a straight face. She’s so serious. I start laughing. She still stares.
“Why are you laughing?” the eyes demand. The eyes do not inquire, by the way, they demand.
I’m laughing so hard now that my nose turns Rudolph red; tears leak from my eyes and stream down my face. I try to hold it in. She is just inches from my eyes. But the effort just makes me explode. Her eyes will not stop staring at me. They take in the tears and the laughter but they keep probing into my soul.
“What are you doing?” the eyes demand. But she isn’t worried. She isn’t upset. She just stares at me, wordless, trying to figure me out.
The more she stares, the harder I laugh. In her stare, I see her mother and her aunt and my baby sister at that age. Staring. Figuring. I recall the story of my mother sending me to my grandmother in a taxi at about that age. (It was 1957–a different era in a small town, ok?) My grandmother never wearied of telling me about my big brown eyes staring at her from the cab.
This babe’s eyes are not brown, but they are big and penetrating. And in all their penetrating seriousness, they have completely melted me.