Friday, March 28, 2014

The Way We See Things

Dear Ellie,

Throughout the NICU, there are illustrated ceiling tiles, painted by middle school art students.  I've glanced up at them often but only really begun noticing them recently.  In a way, they felt kind of like the landscape on my commute to work.  Every day you passively notice them but rarely meditate on any individual object.

Whenever something dramatic happened to you in the NICU, I would walk away to give the nurses and doctors their space, take a deep breath, and arc my neck so that my eyes were facing toward the ceiling.  For each traumatic event, depending on where I was standing, a specific tile would imprint itself in my memory.  Now, whenever I see those tiles, I remember the corresponding event with unsettling clarity.

The first time I saw you turn blue from lack of oxygen, I walked into the hallway between PODs and, coincidentally, noticed this tile:

 It was an unsettling thing to see.  Almost sinister and unnatural.  I know it wasn't the artist's intention, but that deathly blue, grinning girl with gangly limbs still gives me the creeps to this day.

And then there was your mechanical failure, when you went blue for minutes.  I remember walking to a corner while it was all happening.  When I wasn't watching from afar, I stared at the ceiling and saw a haunting black lotus:

There are many more tiles here and I don't associate all of them with bad feelings.  I noticed them only idly for the first month or two and my brain assumed that they were something very different than what they were meant to be.  For instance, the tile below is meant to be flowers and green leaves, but I saw instead a green anemone in the ocean and the tentacles of a squid.

This next one was clearly meant to be a sunflower, but whenever my eyes glance over it, I see instead a solar flare or helium flash bursting from a Red Giant star.

This last one, I suppose, is a ship but my first impression was that it was a birthday cake factory!

Maybe I'll take pictures of all of the ceiling tiles in here so that one day, you can look through them and come to know the landscape of your first few months of life.  

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