Wednesday, May 02, 2007
If anyone asks me what the best day of my life has been so far I immediately have an answer. It was the day my second granddaughter, Elisabeth, was born.
The second? Not the first? Not the day my own daughters were born? Maybe the day I got married? Not by a long shot.
The second grandchild brings far less stress and far more excitement. We knew Emily and the baby were healthy. We knew Emily and Steve were great parents. There was no uncertainty about anything. Everything was glorious: we would love this child and she would love us back. We would have great family times full of laughter and love. There was nothing but promise in the soft morning air.
Emily and Steve were living about two blocks from us at the time. They called us around 2 am and asked us to come stay with two year-old Sarah while they went to meet her new sister. We drove the two blocks to their house and went back to sleep in the guest room. About 2 hours later they called and said we could come meet Elisabeth. I will never forget the feel of the air that spring morning. It was so soft and full of promise. As we loaded our sleepy granddaughter into the car seat and headed off to the hospital there was nothing but lighthearted excitement in my heart. It was the same feeling I had when I was little and my parents woke me early in the morning to start a vacation: a little sleepy but a lot excited.
I was reminded of all this by two recent events. First, Elisabeth’s sixth birthday is coming up this week. However, she has long since become Essie to us. Essie, as in ‘Elisabeth with an ‘S’, is what we tell people. Our family is covered up in Elizabeths and it can get confusing at times. When she entered Kindergarten she made a solemn decree that she would now be known as Elisabeth. When she found how long it took her to write her full name and she was back to Essie within a week.
The second event that reminded me of that soft morning was a birthday party I took Sarah to last weekend. For some reason that only the mental health people could explain, Sarah’s friend’s family had invited 20 other little 8 year–old girls to a Build a Bear workshop to celebrate Makayla’s birthday. You can imagine what the inside of the shop was like, especially when I tell you that these 20 girls were only one party out of three that Build a Bear was hosting that morning.
What you need to know about Build a Bear is that you get to create your own customized teddy bear. You get to pick the style, the color, the fur, the clothes, the eyes and everything. You can even choose how you want the bear stuffed. You can have it stuffed firmly or softly, I guess. Sarah knows more about these matters than I do. I watched her ponder this decision carefully. She became the calm center of this hectic store. The lady in charge of stuffing the bear waited patiently until Sarah finally decreed in a very quiet and shy voice: “Soft.”
Doesn’t everybody want their teddy bear soft? Don’t we all wish for more softness in our lives? My four year-old friend, Anita, takes her stuffed doggie with her everywhere she goes. He is limp with age and his fur has rubbed bare in some places. Her parents tell her she won’t be able to take him with her to Kindergarten next year but that’s not an option in her mind. Doggie is soft in the way good friends and good parents are and Anita has chosen to take this softness with her everywhere and forever.
When does the world get so hard for us? If I could give Essie anything in the world for her sixth birthday I would prefer to give her a soft world to live in. I would wrap her up in soft clothes, give her a soft bed at night and never let anyone say or do a mean thing to her.
The world doesn’t work that way, I know. But how did we get this way? We all start out as children wishing for tenderness for ourselves and then later wishing it for our children and grandchildren. When do children get the urge to act hateful to each other? Where did this war come from? We were not made this way by our Creator.
A few weeks ago we had a bird build a nest under the overhang of our front porch. It seemed the perfect place to build a nest. It was protected from rain. The porch light attracted plenty of juicy bugs. Beaven and I are great landlords. The only drawback was that we have three dogs and a very macho cat. But she not only built her nest here, she laid five eggs. I watched with trepidation. The eggs hatched. Motherbird stayed busy flying in and out with food for them. They never uttered a single peep. I figured Mama had warned them about the feisty dogs and cat.
Last week, though, as I was going out the front door, I noticed the five babies had grown so big they were literally sitting on top of each other there in the nest. I stood there at the door and told Beaven how worried I was about them learning to fly with the dogs and cat around. I knew they would make a fascinating toy or, worse, a handy snack for any of our pets. As we discussed how to keep them away from the front porch, right there while I was watching, there was a general flutter and I watched as all five of them swooped out of the nest, into the front yard and up into the tall trees. There were no training flights, no “school”, they just did it. It was a marvel to watch. They looked like they had been flying for years. How on earth can instinct be so accomplished? I don’t think they had really watched their mother fly. They just knew how to do it.
Then this morning, there was another couple of birds building a nest right in front of my kitchen window. I don’t know if it’s the same mother. I know she is building the same kind of nest and using the same materials—soft moss.
Everybody gets to start out with soft. Something changes along the way and things get harder. On most days, this is a hard world when I wish for a soft one. Then nature shows me that she knows exactly what she’s doing and I should stop worrying. But I still don’t like the war part.