Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Newest Blossom on the Tree

It took me nearly two weeks to write the sketchy draft I needed for my weekly genealogy blog after the visit. Ordinarily an easy thing for me to do, this time although I worked on it until 2:00 in the morning it still wasn’t exactly the way I wanted it. The characters didn’t seem so interesting to me while I wrote it as they had been before when I had decided to write about them. The blog is all about ancestors and their stories but the past isn’t where my head is since my visit with Lily.

One would think spending time with such a perfect creature would inspire me to put pen to paper but it didn’t at all, at the time. Actually, that makes some sense to me. It is so much like what happens to me when I am at the beach.

Staring out at the ocean, soaking up the warmth of the sun, the salt air, the sight of gulls suspended overhead by wind currents, flapping their wings but going nowhere. Timing it just right so that they hover over a particularly interesting beach blanket, abandoned by its inhabitants, I can’t stop watching. The notebook I brought with me is open but the page is blank. Looking out at the vastness of the water, reaching out to who-knows-where, you’d think I’d be able write something profound, but nothing comes, so mesmerized am I by what I see wherever I look.

Not until I fold up the blanket, and head home, trudging through the hot sand, so deep and loose that it seems as if the gravitational pull is doubled on Cape Cod beaches, not until then does my mind start to waken again. Only after I’ve showered off the sand and salt and can no longer see or feel the ocean, except for in my mind’s eye, do I feel inspired to write about it, to reflect on its impact.

And so it is with Lily. From the moment they handed her to me, the connection was made. She looked nothing like my side of the family. I couldn’t see her father in her. I didn’t see my eyes or my mother’s chin or my father’s smile. I saw only her mother and Lily's own unique self in her miniature features, and yet she was mine, too.  

She was perfection. Her head, perfectly shaped, the size of a small grapefruit or large apple; light brown hair, just enough, feels so smooth and soft and is so comforting just stroking it over and over with my fingers as I hold her close.

I tell her Mom and Dad that she is like a little human hot water bottle, keeping me warm as she nuzzles up against my neck, her little legs tucked up under her tummy.

Her tiny hand holding tight to my finger as all newborns will do, but her fingers are long and narrow. Maybe a piano player, I think. And her little feet are long and narrow, too. Maybe a dancer, I think.

So comfortable it is to hold this child, so right it feels. Her parents are in love as am I. She is surrounded by people now who don’t ever want to put her down, eager to hold her, finding it impossible to be in the same room without wanting to touch her. We are drawn to her as if by some invisible energy or spirit. If only her whole life would be that way, surrounded by love alone. In the moment, that is all there is and I don't want to think of anything but this moment.

We three compete for a chance to change a diaper, just to have her all to ourselves. Watching for a moment, for our turn to have her in our arms. And when it's my turn, I can’t take my eyes off her face as she smiles in sleep, having just filled her tiny belly at her mother’s breast.

Mom and Dad and baby are like a three-legged stool in the beginning-a very sturdy thing yet balanced just so as they learn to nurture and care for this new young life. Dad brings Mom her coffee and some breakfast after the first feeding of the morning. He takes his little one downstairs while Mom goes back to sleep for a while. And he has her all to himself. Later, the new little family works out the new dance, choreographing as they go. ‘Is it time to change her? Which blanket should we use? Do you want me to rock her awhile? Her belly button looks okay, don’t you think? Will you help me with her bath? When does she eat again? Should we go up to bed after this feeding or the next?’

Daddy takes her on a little walk around the room, bouncing her a little harder than I would, but the change from Mom’s touch to his calms her cries and he shows her the sights in the family room like the dart board and the closet door, making them seem like wonders of the world that they are discovering together. Mom looks on and smiles.   

I could feel that I wasn’t always where they wanted me to be. Helpful, I suppose, but still I felt as if I was invading their space and their experience. It was a little like filming a documentary. I wanted to reach in and be part of it, yet I knew I should just observe and not insert myself in the moment, so as not to upset that natural balance. And, so I found a time to leave them alone allowing them to bask in their own light for a while.

To give them a break I went to the mall and had my eyebrows threaded. It was supposed to be something that we did together, the new Mom and I, but babies don’t really care about plans their grownups make.
Eyebrow threading is a technique imported from India. It hurts a little but it’s an interesting feeling more than it is what I'd describe as real pain. The hairs are ripped out in groups rather than singularly, as in plucking, but not all at once, either, as in waxing. The Asian girl who did the threading gave me the most soothing facial massage after it was over. I told her how wonderful it felt as she worked wonders on my forehead, eyelids and temples. In broken English she said to me “To help forget the pain.” And, so it did.

If only there was some such ritual, a touch of some kind to take away the very real pain of missing that baby. When I was with her, like the ocean, all I could do was look at her, mesmerized, hypnotized, warmed by her little body and the rest of the world receded into the background. Now, that I have left her I can reflect on feelings and I want to write about that. Not about ancestors I never knew.

And yet, I know why I felt when I first held her that she was mine, too. I could not see her father in her, nor could I see me. She is this brand new life, a completely new being, and a clean slate upon which her story will be written. Nevertheless, she is also the embodiment of all those ancestors I write about here. She is all of us in this family tree.

She is Henrietta. She is Jessie, Rose-Marie and Kim.
She is William and Leslie, She's Daniel. She's Jim.  
She is Scotland. She's England. She's Portugal. She's Rome.
She's Canada. She's Sudbury. She's Manhattan. She's home.
She is all who came before her,
Every branch of this great tree,
Each leaf, each bud, each blossom,
And she's everything to me.

“I will call into the past, far back to the beginning of time and beg them to come and help me at the judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me, and they must come, for at this moment I am the whole reason they have existed at all.”

From the movie “The Amistad”


Donna said...

Very well written and moving - probably because it expresses so well the universal feelings of bonding and hope for the future we feel at every new birth. Congratulations on the life of Lily.

Janice said...

What beautiful sentiments, tied together perfectly with love.


Myrt said...

This is exactly why we do this, isn't it? For the love of the little ones in the family. THANKS for sharing your tender feelings. said...

Beautiful! Moving & lovely...I remember those first few weeks with Sky and how the world became new again. Babies do hold the light, the memory of divinity, and we are drawn to the them as the essence of why we are here. Baby time is exactly as you wrote - a meditation, a being in the moment too deeply to reflect on where you are. I miss it!

nuccia said...

So beautiful! Brings back so many wonderful memories of life with a new baby ...

Cheryl said...

Suzanne - isn't it wonderful to be alive and experiencing things like your new blossom? Thanks for sharing. I hope I have an experience like this someday, too!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! We loved having you here and wish you lived closer. Lily misses you already as do we. Bill and I appreciate all you did for us while you were here and are looking forward to the summer...just knowing you will only be a car ride away is so comforting. We all love you very much and I am so happy to be a part of your family.

Lyvia said...

Suzanne, it is so special to be connected to you this way. Your blog is eloquent and very moving. If only Frank Heys could see you now!