Your tiny hand squeezing my pinky finger. Your bright blue eyes studying my face, studying the world. These are some of my earliest memories of you. At one month, you stare at the dark ceiling beams overhead, then the trapezoids of light that are your living room windows. Those, I am told, are beyond your focal point, so you cannot see the detail—the turning-red leaves of the black tupelo against the clear October sky. But your eyes are hungry to absorb your surroundings, too curious to close until you are tired beyond sleepy. You delight in the world around you.
Circumstances brought you to live with your Grandnan and I at two months of age. Now you are going on five months, so you and I have had an intense, round the clock bonding, more like what I could have had with your dad and his brothers, if I had been more aware and open and mature. We’re buddies at 2 AM feedings and again at 4, when you need a diaper change and you think it’s time to play. I’m there in the evenings when you are fussy—as sleep or that last burp won’t come. I’m there in the mornings when you’re all smiles, lighting up the room.
I note the day to day changes, your growing strength and coordination, your curiosity and observations. I kiss the soft fuzz on your round dome a dozen times a day, noting the heat radiating as your brain makes ever more connections.
We talk, you and I. You regale me with your stories—those sounds you are learning to make—and when you discover a new one, you joyfully repeat it over and over and over. I tell you stories, too, about the cousins you have yet to meet, about the things we will do together—read books, play in the woods.
You are still drawn to strong contrasts and patterns: the false shamrock in the window, dark leafless trees against gray January skies, lights. But you are also aware of the subtler things: someone leaving the room, the dog inviting play via a dropped tennis ball. You recognize a recording of classical guitar, my go-to when you need a distraction from the painful gas bubble in your stomach.
Delighted. Still delighted.
In the Episcopal baptismal service, there is a prayer with the line, “give them … the gift of joy and wonder…” You were born with that gift; I suspect all babies are. Perhaps the prayer should be that we adults don’t snuff that gift out of you. Perhaps the prayer should be that we adults are opened to have that gift renewed in ourselves, to let you be our teacher.
It’s a scary world you’ve entered. During your lifetime, climate change is likely to cause great physical and social upheavals. Wars and acts of hatred seem closer to home than at any other time in my life. I worry about your future. But, you also give me hope. In a recent (January 21) On Being newsletter, The Pause, Krista Tippett writes of the teachings of the civil rights leader and, later, congressman, John Lewis: “in the space between the world as it is and what we long for it to become, we are called to “live as if” the possibility we aspire to is already present.”
Can I live in love when the world spews hate? Can I live in hope, not fear? As much for your sake as for any other reason, I try. And you also teach me how. You exhaust me, little guy, and I so look forward to your returning to your home soon. But your presence in my life is a precious gift. And the gift I most want to give you is the knowledge that you are loved.