Tag Archiv: baby
Scotland Forever.By Lady Butler. 1881
Last week I sat with tea drinkers and tried to share the notion that some days I find myself looking forward to being a grandmother. I don’t actually want my 14 year old son involved in reproduction. What I want is relationships where I don’t have to worry about messing up the kids if I do it wrong.
I have an issue with fear, I said. The fear of getting it wrong is exhausts me. Distracted by the notion of a forty-two year old wanting to be a grandmother, everyone laughed. This did not feel pleasant because I wasn’t trying to be funny.
I have been around this bush before. Twenty dollars says I’ll be around it a few more times before the race is done. But as my husband would say, it is what it is.
What stayed with me in the years since I saw the movie, “The Nativity,” was not about the beauty of the birth. What struck me was what a terrifying time and place it all occurred in. Bethlehem under Roman rule was a very bad birthing location. A baby savior for a world drunk on power and violence was a scary idea.
I know my fear is behind much of my tendency to overreact to things, but I don’t know how to let go of it. I have this picture in my head. On one side is a hundred warriors with spears, soldiers on horses charging, and all the ugliness of the world today. Which one is coming at me changes, what doesn’t change is in front of me. A little boy with chocolate skin and bushy curls is smiling, playing in the dirt, and asking me to believe the impossible.
It has always seemed like letting go of fear would be ceasing to feel afraid. The choice is starker and it takes my breath away. The soldiers are real. So is the baby. I’m choosing sides in a battle. Soldiers with weapons vs. lone baby with loin cloth. Stories about the power of love vs. hate seem a tenuous nail on which to hang my hat with angry men charging.
Everything, I realize, comes down to this. Not after fear is behind me, but precisely while it’s rising up. While my throat is tightening and my body is trembling. Then. Now. Against all logic, I can choose the baby. For better or for worse, I can let a flexing two year old be all that stands between me and my deepest fears.
Behold, the propositions of Advent.
Girl two in her favourite towel.
One bee hive is doing beautifully, the other is a concern. Some of the apple trees look good. On other trees, the buds have shrivelled tiny, never turning into apples. Our sick lamb did not get better. For five days, she got worse. Friday I called the animal health lab and booked a post mortem. Except she wasn’t dead yet. I walked out to the barn thinking things would be clear. Instead, she literally talked her way out of the post mortem. The whole way to the car the lamb had her head up talking. Forget this, I said. I put her in the shade on the front lawn, got some water, and told the lab I wasn’t coming.
All day she seemed alert. Not walking, but head up, nibbling grass, happy for drinks of water. I spent too much time pouring over websites, reviewing symptoms to see what we were missing. We had already treated for two things that were not the issue. I found a third possibility. I researched a fourth to rule it out. (The solution for the third would aggravate the fourth.) I was becoming attached to our friendly talking lawn ornament.
We treated for the third possibility. Our sick girl took her next water with her head sideways on the ground. The treatment was not a good idea. Sick lambs are gentle, helpless and sad to watch. Trying so hard to help and then making it worse is a very powerless feeling.
Summer is not going as planned. My little charts about how things would work lasted less time than it took to write them. Meanwhile, in and out of background and foreground, the kids disemboweled a few stuffed animals and morphed some barbies into a new kind of creature. The chatter of their play keeps me going. Champions of the imaginary, they ground me in everything that is real.
On a long day, but their voices bounce through the window and the teetering world gingerly begins to right again. I know it’s July, but I wonder what it might mean that God came as a baby. From the perspective I usually consider, God takes the humble form of a baby we can welcome without fear.
But there’s another side. If God came as a baby, then every baby becomes a symbol of salvation. Raised up to her natural dignity, a child dances weightless through the fields of wonder, an intended promise of our own possibilities. If we reach to touch the hem of these small ones, we know with certainty; Christ still walks among us.
We who once were children might dare observing them, to see in ourselves the child. Sacred. Delightful. Chosen. Blessed. Rather like the proverbial writing on the wall, children cross our paths on good days and bad singing . . . me and you, and all of us. Beloved.
Out there somewhere is a man who was once a boy. A particular boy who helped to save me.
But what did I do? he might ask?
Nothing. You were you.
I couldn’t have been more than 21 when I first met Josh. He was a baby: settled, happy, content, and unconcerned about anything beyond the present moment. Josh was easy to please. When he wasn’t pulling himself up to stand on top of his cousin’s head, we got on very well.
If I had to pick a word to describe myself then, I would go with tormented. By day I put one foot in front of the other as best I could. I washed lettuce in large sinks for hundreds of people. Delivery from this life by car accident seemed unlikely (as I rarely had reason to go near a road) but it didn’t stop me from wishing. Sleep was nightmares and more nightmares or the agony of days that would not end, and tears that would not come. Along the way, I was asked to work in childcare. I shared responsibility for six children during the morning (four three year olds and two babies). In the afternoon, I took three boys for naptime routines and quieter playing. One of these was Josh.
While I sagged in my insides feeling hopeless, my outsides condemned my failure to sleep, elude nightmares, and feel joy as proof of my basic worthlessness as a human being. Self hatred was justified more every day that I failed to be happy. I tried, but I failed to feel much beyond numb.
The exception was when I was with the children. My dysfunction had to be set aside if it was circle time. There were stories to be told and songs to be sung. We sang, The Itsy Bitsy Spider as dainty as you please, then we picked up pot lids, smashed them for all we were worth and sang verse two, “The Big Fat Spider.” (An excellent and quickly beloved variation.)
My three year olds tucked in, I would carry Josh to the rocking chair every afternoon. I advised the state of my soul to wait until the middle of the night to haunt me, Josh had a back to be patted just now. Every day I rocked him to sleep and stayed a little longer than I needed to, singing softly and gently holding something good.
Salvation rarely comes quickly in these places. But it comes.
What would you do, I wondered one night, if someone were to come in and try to hurt Josh?
I would die for him, said my thoughts. As soon as I said it, I knew that it was true.
A little light broke through. If I would die for a baby that wasn’t even mine, then there was something good in me. If there was something good in me, then there was hope.
Little windows to all that is meant to be. Oh the children that lead us.
If were I to stay at home (my preferred location 98.5% of the time) I would not have to pass the vegetable man’s house. Boy one’s bus stop is a few miles away. I get in the car to pick him up because otherwise he would be late for dinner. This forces me to drive by the vegetable man’s house and therefore to think of him. Driving by a few weeks ago, a terrible thought came. Perhaps I should forgive the vegetable man.
I do not want to forgive the vegetable man. The thought of him rankles me. Seeing his gardens are bad enough, the few times I saw him out working, disgust darts were sucked out of my eyes and shot out through the windshield towards him. The vegetable man didn’t have the decency to hurt me, he hurt my son. In case it is not obvious, I am justified.
I spent a lot of the summer hoping for a new kind of blight to strike certain fields of vegetables. For the fall I hoped that pumpkin sales were plummeting. Technically, my family has been informed that we will be in a state of vegetable starvation for a very extended period of time before I would ever deign to buy that man’s produce.
The last day I picked up boy one from his first summer job, he wouldn’t get into the car until he’d picked beans for just a little bit longer so the bucket would be extra full. He carefully bagged up the vegetables I had bought in silence. When we were out of the driveway, he told me in tears that he no longer had a job. Vegetable man had fired him an hour ago with odd comments that didn’t add up, not much warning, and not much dignity.
On forgiving the man, I feel like I am stuck in the Cat and the Hat book. “But could you, would you . . . for the baby in the manger?”
“I could not would not . . . ”
And then it’s all downhill.
Like vegetable man, I have been unmerciful and unkind. I too have failed to see the tenderness of those I dismiss with little or no grace. Sigh.
Dear Vegetable Man,
I forgive you.
May the year ahead see your gardens overflowing.
Truly, may the taste of your beans be the talk of the town.
*****Unfortunately, the vegetable man was not the most irritating person to cross my path this year. Hence I am launching a forgiveness project, directed at my objects of indignation as they come to me. If you want to join me, do. If you don’t feel the urge, that’s ok too. I am getting ready for Christmas. Starting with the vegetable man. Because you have to start somewhere. And because there’s no way to get half the places I need to go without passing his house.