Comforting my kids thus far has been easy. They are 2 1/2 and 8 months, and even the most body-shaking tears can be soothed by hugs, diversion, and, yes, candy. They are blissfully, heart-breakingly oblivious. They don't even need macaroni and cheese to feel safe yet--they have no idea what "feeling safe" means and even if they did, they would never be able to understand the connection between that box of pasta and powder and the feeling of comfort (and in that way they are more intelligent than we give them credit for!) There must be some part of them, on some subconscious level, that knows or feels or reacts to being taken care of. How else to explain the empty, soul-crushing eyes of neglected children? But that part of them--the part that is appreciating us even when they have no capacity to appreciate us--that part is happily below the surface, so much so that it is barely there at all.
Inside the bag were some of the letters. I couldn't get myself to read all of them, but I did read the first one on the pile. It is more of a snapshot of my heart than it is prose. It's written in dark Sharpie ink--from a marker I borrowed from a nurse--and it's on the back of a brochure about breastfeeding. "No matter what happens," it begins. We didn't know, when I wrote this letter, whether my son would live. We didn't know what kind of life he could have if he did. We didn't know if he would ever smile, or talk, or walk, or laugh. We didn't know anything. "No matter what happens," the note says, "you will know love."