On the merits of the “stand-up wiggle”

We met her on her first birthday, making clown rounds at the hospital. Every time she saw me her eyes would bug out and she would wiggle. I call this a “stand-up wiggle,” which is the highest accolade a clown can receive from a baby. I like to think this baby wiggled because she was excited to see me, but maybe it’s because she didn’t know how to clap yet? I’d sing “You Are My Sunshine” and she’d wiggle even more.

She had a very bad heart when she was born. On the day we found out she was going to get a heart transplant we were all so excited we were dancing in the halls. The mother was dancing, the nurses were dancing, the doctors were dancing, the clowns were dancing and the baby was wiggling–this was celebration time!

That was a Monday. On Wednesday, the transplant was done and I looked in on her through the window of her isolation room in the cardiac ICU.  There she was in all her nakedness, baring her stitches and wounds. She was under sunlamps to keep warm. The nurses had given her these fluorescent yellow sunglasses to protect her eyes, and she looked like a celebrity. On Friday, I noticed the baby’s name was missing from the patient board. I got excited. “Is she leaving the floor?” I asked.

The nurse said,” She’s sprouting wings. She is leaving us.”

We went ahead with our clown rounds, but when we passed the room where she had been in recovery, we broke down. My partner just couldn’t take it anymore and ran for the lounge and started to cry. I ended up in front of the isolation window, looking at the empty crib, singing “You are my sunshine” like a slow ballad.

When I finished, I turned to my left and her  father was standing next to my shoulder. He stood tall, and a tear was in his eye. He placed a hand gently on my shoulder and said softly, “Thank You.”

A special time and space.