I want to talk about something really important. It is something that is as essential to my survival as oxygen.

It is this smile:

Grin Like You Mean it The Cute Syndrome


This smile is basically the best thing in the world, if you ask me. 

It is a wide open tongue-filled smile that says “Oh my god, I cannot even believe what is happening here…do you see? Do you see? OH MY GOD! This is the best moment that ever happened in the whole history of moments ever. EVER!” 

It is completely infectious–unless you are Chicken, our cat, who remains an unimpressed observer. However, I can absolutely guarantee that at the moment of this photo I was on the other side of that camera with my own mouth wide open, eyes squinting, shoulders lifted slightly, mirroring her delight back at her.

This delightful soundless giggling smile was one of Esmé’s first expressions–second, I believe, only to her carefully-crafted side-eye (Oh, the judgement of a two-week-old):

The Cute Side-Eye The Cute Syndrome

I mean, a lady needs a super good judge-y face as well as best-moment-ever face. How else will everyone get appropriate feedback?

 When Esmé was tiny we saw that open-mouthed grin constantly as she took so much joy in the world. Despite how very difficult basic things–like breathing safely and not having seizures all the time–were for her, she was completely thrilled with life. She’d often smile so excitedly that she’d make herself puke. She’d recover for a minute and be right back at it.

 She’d smile that big surprised grin when I would move into her visual range from the blurry beyond, as if to say “Oh, you! You’re still here! That’s fantastic! I really like you!” 

 At  her favorite page of her favorite book, she’d grin, snorting a bit, like: “NO WAY! The bees are still buzz buzz buzzing here? What luck! How very delightful!” 

 We’d play The Muppets Movie soundtrack and her smile would threaten to consume her entire face, thinking, no doubt, “What is this absolute magic coming out of nowhere? No sound has ever been so wonderful. This must be the siren song that tempted Odysseus…” 

 Esmé is far less easy to impress these days (although I can usually get a decent-sized smile it I put a clean diaper on my head and call it a hat), but I see her giant grin less and less as she has matured. Often she is too focused or too curious or too frustrated to give herself over to complete and utter joy. She is more subtle now, and so her expressions have broadened significantly. She now has a squinty you-are-annoying-me-mom face and a goofy-consentration-grimace face and a hey-did-you-see-that? face and a wrinkle-nosed-that-was-fun face. And, considering that her verbal language is still functionally non-existent, these expressions are important methods of communication.

 I love all of her expressions…but, honestly? The wild grin is the best of it. I will stop at nothing to tease one out of her if I can. However, the best of them are occur naturally.

 Yesterday Ezzy took a three hour nap. She woke up from that nap with a bit of a start. She was over my shoulder–her slender legs folded on either side of my hips. Then her legs stiffened and her body shot upward, until she was standing over me. Each foot planted firmly on the mattress, and her butt rested on my bent knees.

She looked at me as if she was surprised to see me there below her. The fingers of both hands excitedly clicking against her teeth. And she grinned this same impossibly large smile…as if she’d missed me while she slept and was totally surprised to see me there when she woke up. I saw a flash of my little girl dancing in my big girl’s grin. As if she was saying again, “Oh! YOU! You’re still here! I really like you! How delightful!”