Love Whispers, Happy Tears

I carried my Sweetness, my new little bonus granddaughter, through the house yesterday, a milestone. It was her first visit to gran’s house, she will be 8 weeks old tomorrow. She certainly would have been here sooner but beasts are huge and newborns are fragile, mamas are protective. I knew the day of our first visit was approaching, it almost happened earlier in the week but last minute plans changed. We see them in their space almost daily, quick visits to drop off or pick up whatever Plum needs, whatever we have extra of, all excuses to see our Sweetness.  We all know these are lame reasons but continually saying I need some Sweetness in my morning seems a bit intrusive. Instead we say, Plum left his jacket here, may need that. Or, do you have any more dairy pills for the school? So visits there have been numerous, just not at our home. A quick call to mama, an invitation to have daddy help run the beasts with Chef before our day trip left them alone for hours, it was enough to bring mama and daddy and Sweetness to our door. Until they were here, I didn’t realize how important that visit was, how much I wanted them in our space.

I sent Mama to Plum’s room to retrieve extra clothes, to the freezer to claim some extra food. Of course she needed her arms free for all of this, my arms were empty and ready for some Sweetness.  Then an incredible thing happened. I walked throughout the house, into Plum’s room, with this child in my arms and my heart exploded. I looked into her eyes, she smiled and finally slept and I was lost in the déjà vu. Plum’s room that once was a nursery, the toy room that once was mama’s room. Looking out the front windows as birds fluttered from tree to tree, remembering the hours Plum and I sat and watched and sang our “Birdie” song which will never be heard outside our home. Carrying the second child, the sibling, brought a gush of emotion I didn’t anticipate. When I loved him throughout all those walks and rocks to sleep, I was dreaming of the possibilities. Now I have a model of what a grandchild running about the yard looks like. Now I have a real vision to attach to the dreams of pounding feet on the steps and toys scattered about the living room. My soul told Miss Sweetness that one day she too could rush about the back yard and dig in the mud, that we would do experiments in the kitchen and take so many bubble baths. My heart sang to her and she slept in my arms.

Later, as I tried to explain to Plum just how amazing it was to carry his sister around the house, how I remembered doing the same with him, I choked up and began to cry. He said, “Yeah, I know, happy tears.” Joy in the carrying, the sharing, the remembering. Joy in Sweetness sleeping as I walked and rocked and patted her tiny bottom, a rhythm so intrinsic to my body, I music that I hear only with a baby in my arms. The dance of motherhood, of long nights and anguished evenings with colicky babies, my body moves of its own accord. God brought some joy over to our home, a delightful sprinkling of baby coos and remembered dreams. One day I know this home will be filled with all of our grandchildren, Plum shepherding all the little girls about the yard and establishing rules about the toy room. He was here first, will always be the one who broke us in. He opened us so wide, destroyed any walls we tried to erect to protect our hearts, he paved the way for his little sister and his cousins and a new sister to come. He taught us to love under extreme circumstances and to forgive beyond our abilities and desires. He teaches us that he is worth every sacrifice, worth every discomfort and to keep showing up.

In the dark days I never dared even dream of this day thus I know that anything is possible through God’s grace and relentless pursuit of our hearts. I carried my granddaughter through our home and whispered love to her. I told her I carried her big brother the same way. I told her I carried her cousin Princess the same way. I pray I get the chance to know my newest granddaughter while she is still carriable.  One day I will write about Princess visiting again, filling the bird feeder on her own tree. She will introduce me to her sister. Another granddaughter due in May, so many little girls. They will come to play and make messes and I will cry, watching them all through the blur. Plum will assure everyone there is nothing to worry about, he knows my happy tears. After all, they fell on him first.

The Narcissism of Estrangement

I long to snuggle under warm blankets and read easy fiction, drift off to sleep with pretend conflicts and made-up mysteries because life is so uncomplicated I go searching for embattled situations rife with nonsense to ease me into slumber. I want afternoons of browsing social media overflowing with kittens and recipes and DYI projects I will never master while I snack on candy and sip wine and worry only about the horrible combination of the two. I want my escapisms back, when worries felt big enough to warrant such behavior, when I allowed myself to wallow in hurts and slights that justified Pinot Grigio in the afternoon. It seems so frivolous now, incredibly self-indulgent when families are broken not by choice and inability to forgive but by new laws that leave them on airplanes and across borders, reaching helplessly for each other, souls truly in agony. The epidemic across America of millennials feeling self-righteous and thoroughly justified in lobbing  off family members who dare to hurt their feelings, who speak words that don’t generate “likes” in their hearts, parents who have shown themselves to be human and failed and not perfect Facebook or Instagram images, these young adults are suffering from a greed that comes from instant “friends” and shallow relationships, easy deletes with a button click that must be farcical to the rest of the world. My family has been destroyed by estrangement, the quick snapping off of our branch of the family tree. What must this look like to mothers who are wailing for their children across walls erected overnight? Children who cannot reach parents in hospitals, spouses who cannot complete educations together? Families ripped apart with roots that support generations are in agony, true bone crushing pain. I cannot help thinking of my children and the utter selfishness that comes of being white and literate and full of the self-esteem I made sure to nurture. These children are making choices to separate that must seem completely ludicrous to families cowering in fear of this very separation. I don’t think there is enough wine to escape into just how stupid this all is.

I am reminded of the trip Stella and I took to SouthEast Asia and how I was impacted by such a simple thing as water usage. I saw first-hand how precious this commodity was, not a concept that I merely read about. I saw women carrying clay pots of water, I saw children without. I came home and explained to our family that we would not be letting the water run when we brushed our teeth, we would not let the shower run while we wandered around choosing clothes, something I had always tried to teach but now felt passionately about. When we see real hunger, we can no longer waste food. Resources are not limitless, families are only precious when we understand that tree supports not just us but future generations as well. Those who have lost branches understand the value of a strong root system.

Our church is beginning a new ministry to pair children whose extended family may be far away with seasoned congregants who are willing to step in as “grandparents.” A beautiful response that understands the value of both ages for each other. Parents aren’t enough in a child’s life, riches come from knowing the world holds more love, special branches that  support the child with patience and generational wisdom. How indulgent and short-sighted for those practicing this new brand of selfishness call estrangement, to rob their children from the gifts they received from those very branches? How comically narcissistic  it must appear to the rest of the world, a silly bedtime story that has to be fiction, given the real problems of the day. As I consider the rush of lawyers into airports to address those abandoned and separated, lost and disconnected, my heart breaks for these people and for the silent millions across our country who are suffering from children who just don’t get that one day, it may be too late to reunite. Someone may put up a wall, erect a barrier, create a very real separation that will make your frivolous choices of escapism break your own hearts. I pray this is just a season of wild fiction, a crazy ride that wakes us up from our pretend conflicts and made-up mysteries, brings us back together into what is  truly important: family trees with deep roots and funky branches, knotted trunks and new growth. I just can’t grasp wasting such precious commodities when others are desperately wanting.