Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nobody asked me, but I'll tell it anyway

A message for my niece upon the occasion of her becoming a mother

I’ve told you before how much I anticipated your coming into this world.  The last time I saw your mother before I left for a trip to Jamaica she was standing in Mimi and Pawpaw’s front doorway, and I took a long look to remember what you looked like before you were born.   

The news of your birth came to me while I was away, and I couldn’t wait to get back to see you.  I was 20 years old at the time.  I collected one of each piece of Jamaican coin currency with the year on it, and I planned to give it to you on your 20th birthday.  I kept that money in Monopoly collector’s tin for 20 years until I finally made good on my intention and gave them to you when the time came.

When Mimi picked me up at the airport she brought a picture of you for me to see.  The next day I got to meet you in person, and I cried as I held you because you were so beautiful.  But I’ve told you all of this before, and more.

I always loved having you around the house.  I told all my friends you looked just like me, and you could pass as my own.  Ah, if only I could look like you now.  

Years later something I had wished for you and another came true, and I planned for the doubly-great nieces and nephews I would have. I say this not to make you or Colin sad, but I want you to know my heart broke that November for so many reasons I cannot even count them.  At least half of them were because of what it all meant to you.

You have come so far, and I am very proud of you for being so brave and making your own way in this world.  You have chosen, (or, he was chosen for you, I think) a tremendous young man with a great spirit and a loving, sincere nature.  I have no doubt you will be happy together, but happiness does not come without giving and compromise.  That is something you will learn as you go, and it can be a bitter lesson if you are not willing for the compromise part.

The next years of your life are going to be busy settling in with another person, and then taking care of a child.  I call this period the Lost Years.  First, some advice about the Lost Years:
  • You are about to lose your identity, but you will gain a new one.  Embrace your new identity because the minute your baby is born your current identity will be gone forever.
  • Everything you know about popular culture is coming to an end for at least the next ten years.  Your new culture will be centered around diapers, bottles, cartoons, children’s shows, children’s movies, school, homework, birthday parties and Happy Meal toys.
  • You will gain confidence in ways you never thought. 
  • You will gain weight in places you never imagined.
  • You will wake up one day in the future and wonder where you are, who you are, and how you got there.
  • You will lose your identity, again, but you will gain a new one, again.  Embrace your new identity.

Now, about that greatness that’s coming… I have a few words of advice about that too, some I learned from watching you grow up, some I learned on my own and some I wish I had been warned about: 
  • When it comes to childbirth pray you do not need a C-section.  In all of the birthing horror stories people told me no one told me what happens to you in the recovery room after a C-section.  The phrase “beg for mercy” comes to mind.  I’ll have to tell you about that in person.
  • Post-partum depression is real, and doesn’t mean you are a bad mother.  If you feel it, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
  • Babies are only babies for a blink of time.  Treasure every minute, because you don’t get a second of it back.
  • No two children are alike so don’t compare yours to anyone else’s.
  • You are undoubtedly going to take your child to concerts; I expect nothing less from you.  That’s fine, but don’t sit near the speakers, put some earplugs in that child’s ears, and protect it from the sun and/or cold. 
  • Put socks on that baby when it’s cold.
  • No one will love your baby like you do, and strangers aren’t going to think it’s cute to see a child running wild.  Don’t let your child run wild.
  • If you child is crying in a restaurant take him out.  No one wants to pay for a meal and listen to that.  As I said, strangers aren’t going to think that’s cute.
  • Ditto for movie theaters, concerts, and church.
  • Never take your eyes off your child for one second while he or she is near or in water.  Need I remind you of your near drowning in a kiddy pool?
  • Do NOT, repeat, NOT, ever buy your child any form or fashion of a video game console.  Do NOT!  I am serious.  And don’t let his Uncle Josh do it either.  I mean it.
  • Read to your child every day, even when you are tired, and even when you think she is not listening.
  • Don’t instill unnecessary fears in your child, but do instill the necessary ones. Common sense will lead you to know the difference.
  • Hold your infant as much as you can.  This isn’t going to spoil her, no matter what anyone says.
  • Letting your baby cry himself to sleep is not cruel as long as you keep a close eye and make sure he is not in pain, wet, or hungry. 
  • Toddler leashes are not cruel either, especially if you go to an amusement park or shopping.  A child can go missing in a department store in the blink of an eye and end up hiding in the bed display in the bedding department.  You know I’m right.
  • Be active in your child’s school. 
  • Teach your child to pray, love God, and know Jesus. 

I could go on for pages, but you’ll figure this all out on your own.  And if you feel you need advice or help you have a mother and aunts who will gladly give you their opinion.

I am so very happy that you have this joy coming into your life.  You deserve it.  There is so much love waiting for this baby that she, or he, is going to be floating in it from now until forever.  And if I ever get an afternoon alone with it, I plan to pull up a rocking chair and put in my James Taylor’s greatest hits CD.  If she’s anything like her mama she’ll be asleep before the first notes of Carolina in My Mind. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bad hair day

Facing the mirror hung in the station on the far side of the room I catch a glimpse of the reflection of the aging, bloated face, the narrow eyes, like slits cut in a melon, and the thinning hair being wrapped and pull through my stylist's brush. 

Instead I look at the ceiling and refocus my thoughts to the image I have of myself in my mind's eye. Then I look to the left for recollection of a happy moment. 

I save looking to the right for when I am a passenger in a car and I can set my gaze at two o’clock.

Looking in the mirror straight ahead is saved for when the stylist is completely done, and I feel I have recovered some self-dignity through the flirty attitude of my refreshed hair. 

I go down to the department store below and indulge in a purchase of brightly colored clothing to camouflage my mid-section and my indignation.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”

The last couple of weeks have brought new baby goats so I’ve been spending more time in the pasture watching them and trying to get some good pictures.  In this pasture the goats get their water from a small pond covered in lily pads.  From a distance the pond looks like a big puddle of dead water.  Looks can be deceiving.

The pond is anything but dead water. It looks as if raindrops are always falling softly from the piece of sky directly overhead.   Upon closer inspection the undulations seem to generate from beneath the surface, a result of teeming life in the murky depths.   The surface of the water is never still for the minnows, turtles, frogs, and fish moving below, and the water bugs above.  Dragonflies abound, lighting on one lily pad, and then another as if walking through a garden on stepping stones.  Iridescent insects with names I do not know glimmer in the sunlight as they skate across the water, some becoming food for the creatures underneath.  Crawfish fortresses of thick mud stand tall in the rivulets that flow into the top side of the pond and out the bottom. 

I am mostly intrigued by the frogs.  Step outside any door of my house and you can’t help but hear them.  Step a little closer to the water’s edge and the startled frogs will jump in the pond, letting off a frightened squeak as they leap.  One step closer still and they will hush, as if to hide from your presence.  But I know they are there, I just can’t see the darned things.

I hear the plunk as they jump into the water upon my approach.  I see the water ripple on the surface, and the stems of the lilies sway from their movement, but I can’t see the frogs!  I went out today with a pair of binoculars to spy them before they spied me.  Although they were vocal they were still elusive even under my magnified gaze.

The goats pay me little attention.  In the mornings I go out in my long blue floral robe with a cup of coffee in my hand.  I try to miss the school bus as it passes, but I’m not always so lucky.  The goats get up from their hay beds and quietly walk in the opposite direction.  What are they trying to tell me?

I’m sure they don’t understand why, after all this time, I want to share the ground on their side of the fence.  The babies run from my grasp, and the others start at the sound of my camera shutter’s action.  They tolerate me because one does not bite the hands that feed.  

It’s just that I am so attracted by the life that exists on the other side of the fence.  The wild, fearless jumps of the kids are like the cartwheels of my youth.  The bleats of the mothers when it is feeding time confirm an affection for their offspring even when I think they could care less about them; motherly love in all its confusion.  The ripples in the pond remind me there is life in places I cannot see. I do not see, yet I believe. That's the foundation of faith, yes? 

Life, all signs of it, is proof enough to me that there is a Creator of it all, who set the world in perfect motion and did not let one detail go untouched.