ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from Helga and LJ user Lb_lee. It also fills the "rituals, customs & rites of passage" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"First Steps"


Adam spent July
scrambling around the castle
in search of things to get into.

He loved opening doors or drawers
to take out whatever was inside,
or put something into empty space.

He tried to carry
anything he could pick up --
toys, books, spoons, rocks,
whatever came to hand.

This was complicated by the fact
that he could not yet stand up
without holding onto something.

As soon as Adam let go
of the table or the wall
or somebody's leg, plop!
down he went.

Sometimes he whimpered
because his feet hurt if
he stood on them too long.

He got frustrated because
he could never take more than
one or two steps before falling.

Then he would sit on the floor and wail.

Victor and Igor tried coaxing him
to walk between them, to no avail.

Igor resorted to clowning,
which he hated,
because he'd spent a summer
doing that to support himself
for lack of better opportunities, but
the mimed pratfalls and theatrical laughter
taught Adam to accept tumbles
as a natural part of exploration.

Victor appreciated that Igor
was willing to do that for their son.

"I'm a little worried that he's not
walking yet," Victor admitted.
"It's an important milestone."

"Give him time," said Igor.
"He just had his first birthday."

"But with everything else,
Adam has been advancing
at a steady pace," Victor said.
"He's been standing up since May,
and he still can't walk on his own."

"Good point," Igor said with a frown.
"Let's wait a few months and
see if he makes any progress."

By September, Adam was
playing with things that he saw
his fathers using -- small tools,
the keys to the castle, whatever
he could get his hands on.

Victor despaired of keeping
the keys out of reach, until
Imre the blacksmith gave Adam
a set of old skeleton keys.

Adam was talking, too,
a handful of words
including "more" --
unlike most toddlers,
he wasn't a fussy eater --
and "toy" and "why?"

The problem was,
he still wasn't walking,
although he clearly yearned
after that rite of passage.

Sometimes Adam cried
because he couldn't keep up
with Sorin and the other toddlers.

Victor and Igor both
examined his feet,
but there was nothing
obviously wrong with them.

"Eighteen months is about
the outer edge of normal
for starting to walk," Igor said.

"I know," Victor said. "I just ...
have a bad feeling about this.
We knew there might be problems."

They knew, because Adam
wasn't an ordinary child;
he had been spliced together
from an assortment of tiny corpses,
putting together the healthy parts
to make a whole baby.

Victor and Igor had worried at first
that Adam might not grow normally.
They had heaved a sigh of relief
when he put on weight fast,
smiled, and learned to roll over.

"I'll dust off my old notes,"
Igor promised, and he did.

He even spoke with
Gizella the midwife
about child development
and sent a message to
Borbála the traveling alchemist
for additional lab supplies.

In December, the ground
was covered with ice,
so Adam was not allowed
to try walking outdoors.

Instead he toddled around the castle,
clinging to the furniture as he went,
or holding up his little arms
as he demanded, "Carry me!"

"Dorottya's daughter Fruszina
was walking six months ago,"
Victor said as he picked up his son.

"Fruszina has precocious motor skills,"
Igor said. "The day after she was born,
she could already hold her head up.
You can't go comparing Adam to her."

"I hadn't heard that," Victor said.

"It was old news by the time
we moved into the village," Igor said.
"Dorottya mentioned it when
Zsófia's son Danior was
born with two teeth."

"One thing that concerns me
is that Adam's feet aren't adapting,"
Victor said, pointing to the soles.
"Baby feet start out round on the bottom,
but flatten out as toddlers begin walking."

"The bones also begin as cartilage
and then solidify gradually," Igor said.
"I'm starting to suspect that it
isn't happening quite like it should."

"How is your lab work coming along?"
Victor asked, as he let Adam
climb back into his lap.

"I've managed to reconstruct
my original formulas," Igor said.
"I want to run some extra tests
before I try anything on Adam."

"Any ideas for what we could do
in the meantime?" Victor asked.
"He's unhappy, and I hate that.
We have to try something."

"Real shoes might help," Igor said,
fingering the knitted booties
that looked like tiny white owls
with embroidered eyes.
"Soft leather soles would
protect his tender feet better,
maybe give him more confidence
if he's afraid of stepping on things."

The owls had been a gift
from Dorottya not long ago.
They rarely had to buy booties
or any other clothes for Adam.

Parents with older children
had taken to giving them
the hand-me-downs as
their own babies outgrew things,
because everyone knew that
Victor and Igor couldn't knit.

"I'll talk to the cobbler,"
Victor said, and soon
Adam had a pair of shoes
made from soft, sturdy calfskin.

They didn't help him walk more,
but Adam was very proud of them.
"My shoes!" he announced
to anyone who would listen.

March brought out the first spring flowers,
more abundant now that Victor and Igor
had restored many of the castle gardens.

On sunny days they took Adam outside
and gave him colored pieces of chalk
with which to scribble on the flagstones.
He would look at the purple crocus
and choose purple, then yellow
for the nodding beds of narcissus.

Adam loved sorting things by color or shape,
putting his blocks or cloth animals
into different boxes.

He also paid more attention to
including other people in his games,
and would invite Victor to play catch
by rolling a ball across the floor
or ask Igor for a puppet story.

Adam still couldn't walk without help,
but at least they knew more about why.

"I'm sure about the hypertonia now,"
Igor said as he set Adam on the ground
and coaxed him to take a few steps,
supported by both hands.

The stiff-legged gait made it hard
for the toddler to keep his balance.
The moment Igor let go of him,
Adam stuck his arms out in front,
groping for something to hold onto.
Victor caught him just before he fell.

"Ground pulls," Adam whined,
clinging to Victor for comfort.

"Yes, it does," Victor said.
"That's called gravity.
It keeps us from floating away.
Wouldn't we look silly,
flapping around like birds,
if the ground didn't hold us down?"

Victor flailed his arms to illustrate,
making Adam giggle.

Igor chuckled too. "You look
silly enough just doing that."

Then Victor sobered.
"Do you think we can fix
whatever is wrong?" he asked.

"I'm confident we can make it better," Igor said.
"There's no guarantee of perfection, though.
Adam may always be a bit clumsy."

Igor's formulas were ready.
There was nothing left now
but to try them and hope.

For Adam's birthday,
they went down to the village.
"It's my birthday!" he told everyone.

When Anne brought out the cozonac,
Adam made an honest effort
to use his fork before resorting to fingers.

"At least this time he's eating
the whole thing, instead of
just picking out the rahat,"
Igor said as he watched.

"What do you say to Anne?"
Victor prompted gently.

"Thank you," Adam said to her
through a mouthful of birthday bread.

Once he finished eating, Igor said,
"Come open your presents now."

"Why?" Adam piped
as he reached for the packages.
It was his favorite word.

"Because it's your birthday,
and people give gifts on birthdays,"
Igor explained, handing him
the first one from Dorottya.

Eagerly Adam tugged on the ribbon,
and the paper opened to reveal
a white shirt with blue embroidery.

"That is very welcome," Victor said.
"Adam has outgrown his good shirt."

The next one turned out to be
a set of fine wooden blocks
shaped like castle pieces.

"Oh my lord, Dénes,
that must have taken you
a month to make!" Igor said.
"You're going to spoil the boy."

"Not quite that long;
Lóránt helped me a lot,"
Dénes said with a laugh,
ruffling Adam's fluffy hair.
"If you feel like I'm overdoing it,
you can tell me more about
the science behind fermentation."

Dénes never got tired of
hearing Igor ramble on
about molds and yeasts.

Attracted by the toys,
Sorin toddled over,
his chubby hands
reaching for the blocks.

Then Fruszina plopped herself
down beside the two boys,
her white dress brightened
with designs of red thread.

Victor hurried to divide the blocks
into three piles so the children
could all play side by side.
It wasn't like they needed many --
they were just starting to learn
how to build walls and towers.

"One, two, three, four," Victor said,
demonstrating how to make a stack.

"One, two, three, four," Sorin echoed --
he was already good with numbers --
but it was Fruszina who figured out
how to fit the quarter-round pieces
together to make the turrets.

Adam was more interested
in poking his curious fingers
into the arches and windows.

"I'm thirsty," Adam said,
looking up at Victor.

"I'll get you some lemonade,"
Victor said as he stood up.

A few minutes later,
Adam had forgotten
all about that and asked,
"Where's Tată?"

"You sent him to fetch you a drink,"
Igor reminded him. "Scoot over.
I'll play with you until he gets back.
Let's see how long a wall we can make."

Igor lined up the blocks
that the children weren't using,
not caring about the shapes.

Adam helped Igor put blocks
at the end of the line,
squares and crenellations
and pointed minarets.

Victor soon returned
with his hands full of
several lemonade glasses.

Adam spotted him about ten feet away,
pulled himself up Igor's shoulder,
and toddled to Victor saying,
"Tată! Tată! Tată!"

The rite of passage had come at last.

"Well now," Victor said,
his voice a little hoarse,
"this just became the
happiest birthday of my life."

* * *

Notes:

Adam is 13 months old in mid-July. He's exploring more widely, opening and closing things, and trying to carry stuff around. By this stage, parents often start to worry if their baby isn't walking yet, although many children take longer to learn. Developmental delays in walking can signal serious problems, so it's a good idea to pay close attention. In Adam's case, he's having trouble due to his unusual birth circumstances leaving him with some neuromuscular issues.

Playing with blocks can help toddlers learn valuable skills. Traditional wooden toys were usually unpainted, with natural color variation from different types of wood, and they used to be something that family and friends made for each other back when everybody knew a lot of handicrafts. It's best to start with simple shapes such as geometrics or tree blocks. Once children are familiar with those, you can move to fancier things like castle blocks. Wooden toys are easy craft projects to make at home.

Freak shows used to display people with disabilities. What most folks don't know is that this experience was reciprocal and gave the performers a lot of control over how they interacted with the audience. Some sideshow entertainers really enjoyed it, while others like Igor viewed it as a last resort for supporting themselves. Clowning is another way people explore weirdness; clowns often exaggerate physical features, and historically many of them were people with disabilities. Clownish tumbling is also an effective way to teach children that mistakes are a normal part of life.

Adam is 15 months old in mid-September. He plays with tools, mimics adults, and uses individual words more.

Children's speech development goes from babbling through single words to short phrases. In canon, Frankenstein's creature is often unable to speak or has limited speech, although the original novel eventually portrayed him as more articulate and showed his gradual development. Because talking with young children aids their linguistic growth, I felt that a baby raised by two loving scientists would make brisk progress in this area. Look at how this Victor and Igor put intense investment into their son, contrasted with the abuse and neglect shown in canon. There are tips for helping children's language development.

At 18 months old in mid-December, Adam is exploring more widely and making requests.

Most infants cannot move their heads until about a month old, then learn to support it, and should have complete control around six months. However, a few are born able to lift their heads. I've seen it, and the effect can be startling and a little eerie. The infant in my experience clearly recognized my voice when I first spoke, looked around the room until spotting me, then flopped back down.

Some babies are born with natal teeth. In central Europe this is associated with being a táltos, similar to a shaman.

It's important to choose the right booties and shoes for young children. Booties may be crocheted or knitted. Note: never put beads or anything else detachable on baby clothes, because it could pose a choking hazard. Decorations such as eyes should always be embroidered.

Adam is 21 months old in mid-March. He likes scribbling, sorting things, and playing with people.
http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/growth/curiosity-independence/

Hypertonia is a condition of very stiff muscles, which may stem from various causes and tends to delay walking in affected toddlers. In canon, Frankenstein's creature is often portrayed with this kind of muscular stiffness, which leads to a staggering walk and groping arm motions. Warning for physical and psychological abuse: you can see signs of muscular rigidity in this movie clip, brilliantly portrayed by Boris Karloff. I felt that this was a good feature to keep, as it likely resulted from the mad science origin rather than upbringing.

In canon, people routinely abuse and neglect Frankenstein's creature. Such mistreatment has negative effects on children and adults. In both child abuse and domestic violence, victims who fight back are often blamed.

Adam's second birthday arrives on June 16. He is talking in sentences and eating solid food. He can play comfortably alongside other children and is starting to stack blocks.

Cozonac is a Romanian sweet bread made with various fillings. This village makes birthday bread with mixed colors/flavors of rahat, a gel candy that you can make at home.

Romanian clothes are often lavishly embroidered, although children's clothes are usually simpler than those of adults. Adam's shirt resembles this one, and the keyhole collar is typical of shirts for men or boys. Fruzsina's dress looks something like this, and the drawstring collar is common in chemises for women or girls.

Victorian lemonade was often flavored with spices.

Tatâ -- Romanian for "father" or "daddy."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-21 09:38 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Our older daughter was about two years old before she started walking. She never learned to crawl; she found it easier to scoot on her butt because she could carry things in both hands. Crawling is, apparently, an important step in learning to walk and developing coordination.

Her sister, on the other hand, was walking at nine months, before she learned to talk.

(You spend two years waiting for them to walk and talk, and the next 20 waiting for them to sit down and shut up.)

Lots of fun, but powerful developments here.

Date: 2014-06-22 12:12 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I don't mean Adam finally walking, either. Victor and Igor are /co-parenting/ Adam without even /thinking/ about it. They're both working out the parameters of Adam's problems with walking, they're both attacking the problem from different angles, and they're supporting each other as well as Adam.

I love it.

Thanks for posting this.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-22 01:45 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Yay! I love this. Poor Adam, it's so hard when you want to do something and can't. I love how Igor and Victor's relationship is developing.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-22 05:54 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Happy, happy ending (of this chapter)!

Wasn't it "tată" in the last episode, breve rather than circumflex?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-21 10:18 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
The kid is growing up fast! o/~ Sunrise, sunset.... o/~

Even for grownups, a more experienced person letting them known that scary-seeming things are OK often helps a lot... My father and I once flew my ex down to Charleston (SC) to go deep sea fishing... we were flying through puffy cumulus clouds at 6000' and getting bounced around a bit, but nothing that wasn't well within my abilities... I looked back at her, and she looked worried... I said, "aaah, this ain't much" and she proceeded to treat it like a roller-coaster and had much more fun for the rest of the flight...

This has become one of my favourite series. I'll bet that kid is reading by the time he's three... hmmmm. How well does Igor read? :)


Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-21 10:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> The kid is growing up fast! o/~ Sunrise, sunset.... o/~ <<

Sooth. I had fun writing a poem like this which spanned a longer stretch of time, to show the development.

>> Even for grownups, a more experienced person letting them known that scary-seeming things are OK often helps a lot... My father and I once flew my ex down to Charleston (SC) to go deep sea fishing... we were flying through puffy cumulus clouds at 6000' and getting bounced around a bit, but nothing that wasn't well within my abilities... I looked back at her, and she looked worried... I said, "aaah, this ain't much" and she proceeded to treat it like a roller-coaster and had much more fun for the rest of the flight... <<

Yes, that can help a lot. Victor and Igor know a lot of science, but somewhat different areas of it. Neither of them had much experience with kids before creating Adam, and sometimes that scares the crap out of them.

>> This has become one of my favourite series. <<

Yay! I'm delighted to hear that.

>> I'll bet that kid is reading by the time he's three... <<

That is entirely possible. Feel free to prompt for it if that's something you'd enjoy exploring.

>> hmmmm. How well does Igor read? :) <<

Both Igor and Victor are fluent and enthusiastic readers. The villagers, not so much, although the priest must be. Some of the other people can probably read somewhat. I expect that Victor and Igor will include reading lessons in their activities, especially once Adam reaches that age.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-21 10:52 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
He's almost there now; indeed, if I were V&I I would be reading to the little tyke every night...

Funny... I know my mother must've read to me, because we had the books from which it would've been done, and I remember distinctly reading the summer I was three.. but I *don't remember* it. I remember not-reading when I was two (only a few memories from that year, a few in July, and some in January, and maybe one or two other frames...) and I remember reading when I was three but I don't remember anything atall about how I got from A to Z. :)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-21 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> He's almost there now; indeed, if I were V&I I would be reading to the little tyke every night... <<

They probably are, although there is also probably a lot of freestyle storytelling, which used to be far more common than it is now.

>> Funny... I know my mother must've read to me, because we had the books from which it would've been done, and I remember distinctly reading the summer I was three.. but I *don't remember* it. I remember not-reading when I was two (only a few memories from that year, a few in July, and some in January, and maybe one or two other frames...) and I remember reading when I was three but I don't remember anything atall about how I got from A to Z. :) <<

Huh. I have no memories of being unable to read, and very few of encountering anything beyond my reading level -- it was so rare, those moments stood out. I clearly remember my mother reading me The Hobbit when I was four and my father reading me The Yearling when I was six, but I also remember that those were just examples, they read to me all the time. Storytelling I got from my grandparents.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-23 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siege.livejournal.com
Dogs will look to their pack leader(s) for reassurance in uncertain or frightening situations. My parents' dog Sassafras hated thunderstorms and fireworks, but if someone was with her she'd be mostly okay.

Yes...

Date: 2014-06-23 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That's true. Adam seems to be growing up with very strong help-seeking skills, so there's one area where Victor and Igor have already beat their parents.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-22 05:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I've been told that one of my aunts had to have hard soled shoes before she could learn to walk - the bottoms of her feet were too round for her to be able to get started.

Yes...

Date: 2014-06-22 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It used to be common belief that babies needed that, along with ankle support in some cases. Now the advice is for flexible shoes.

My thought is to try different things. If a baby hasn't learned to walk barefoot or in booties, then more sturdy shoes might help. This is especially true if there's no obvious physical problem -- sometimes it's just about what makes them feel comfortable. Some kids really don't like the feeling of things under their feet.

Adam is fussy about that, and he really dislikes things moving underfoot or any other kind of unstable footing. He already has a hard enough time balancing and moving without the environment making it worse.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-06-22 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I had the impression that she'd been trying and that that was the thing that finally worked. There was no suggestion that my mother or my other aunt had needed them, just their younger sister.

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