He wakes up enough to latch on again: a brief struggle and then quiet. His head is backstopped by a roll of the linens, his two-week-old body draped over his mother's ribs. All sleepy little mammals are much alike: he could be a puppy or a kitten.
I kneel behind the table and slide my hands, palms up, under his mother's shoulders, working my fingers into the endlessly rich territory between the spine and the scapula, lifting a little. My thumbs come to rest easily on the anterior side of the upper traps: with a little fish-like wriggle, easier to do than to describe, they can get down to the strands of the levator scapula. Caught at last: I've got them between my thumbs and third fingers, and I can give them the long elaborate squeeze they've been looking for. A barely audible “oh,” from the mother, a little whuffle from the baby. I move on to the more accessible upper traps. Hold for a breath, maybe two, move a fingers-breadth down, and hold again.
Behind me, the baby's sister, a serious trouper, who kept him entertained for a full fifty minutes, sits on the couch, doing her math homework. She's using a calculator, both for the work and for a flashlight: the Spring daylight has run out, and the room is almost dark.
I stand up and move around to the side, to finish up with a little gentle abdominal work. No point in trying to get under the linens: I work through them, taking care not to put any lateral drag on the rectus abdominis, in case there's been any separation. I really don't think there has been, though. No particular tenderness. I use the contact improv skills I learned thirty-plus years ago, to roll my hands tenderly over the belly without pulling on it. When I come to his feet, I just incorporate them, working the ribs with them a little. Perfect massage tools.
When I'm packed up and heading out the door, half an hour later, she hands me a brown paper bag: a dozen eggs. They can't keep up with their chickens. I don't ordinarily accept tips, but fresh eggs, yes, I'll take those.
Portland is not, maybe, the earthly paradise, but it's close. It's close.