Category Archives: family

God bless the Ten Ren.

I’m home from Kate’s, and instead of sleeping in a room with Raj I will be conked out all alone in my quiet space tonight. While I was still in D.C./Arlington I wanted to write a little collage-y post about my last week with their family, but I was running out of steam. I haven’t really built up steam at this point, quite the opposite, but I do want to have blog closure on this, and I need a little time to wind down this evening, so…

We had the 4th of July, when I stayed home with Raj who had gone to bed, but I saw the fireworks at the Capitol anyway, out our window. Only blocked a little, by a big building across the way. We had glorious thunderstorms, which were also fun to watch, with horizontal rain and dramatic electrical and sound displays — but one of them caused flash floods nearby, which I’m sure the people getting rescued didn’t feel glorious about.

We did lots of baby-rocking and smooching, cooking and eating. Later I will try to post some recipes of what I cooked. All the cooking required shopping, so we made a fun trip to Costco to make use of me having a card. It was a happy-family sort of outing such as I don’t think I’ve ever had at Costco 🙂 . Six of us including two boys under two and the nanny Kareena — and the adults were all jolly.

On the way I told Tom that he should sing a going-to-Costco song, because he is often singing through the days. He considered this idea for only a few seconds before it came to him that the tune should be something by John Philip Sousa, and he made us all laugh with his lyrics to a rousing number that fit our mood well. Walking through the store Rigo slept peacefully in a front pack, but Raj in the cart started to get a little antsy as our explorations were prolonged. I distracted him by means of the cut flower display which he really did admire, and some Pringle samples.

Fitting all those groceries into the not-huge SUV with all of us was a challenge; I protected the tomatoes on my lap. Getting so many boxes and bags, plus two babies, out of the car and into the elevator, then out of the elevator on our floor, was a creative logistical work; the elevator was determined to close on us, and some of our company were very scrappy in the skirmish.

Today I woke at 6:00, Eastern Time. Lately Raj had been waking me up with more babbling than crying. After a while he was ready to get up, and I started him on his morning routine of dressing, playing, breakfast, before the nanny came on duty and while his parents were catching up from nighttime with a newborn. Sometimes lying in bed with me was a changed aspect of the routine. I started this paragraph the past continuous tense and had to change it… 😦 I hope Raj will continue, though, to wake up a little later than he had been doing before I arrived.

Actual flight time from east to west was barely over five hours, but by the time I got to my house this evening I’d been traveling twelve hours. I walked around my gardens front and back, and everything looks so healthy and good! I drank my Ten Ren “Relaxing Tea,” and may God bless it to be so.

We sing the while.

A IMG_7278 2.jpg RigoThis poem from William Blake’s 1789 Songs of Innocence is about a baby a few days younger than my grandson Rigo, but its tone of blessing and gratefulness reflects that which still reigns in our household since our newest “joy” was added to the family. I was reminded of the poem on the Interesting Literature site where I found conveniently listed 10 of the Best Poems for Christenings.

As you might guess, they were not written specifically for christenings, but about particular babies. The blog author Dr. Oliver Tearle tells us, “An infant may be without a name but it is also without a voice, as the very word attests (from the Latin infans, ‘unable to speak’). As with so many of his poems, in ‘Infant Joy’ Blake is giving a voice to the (literally) voiceless.”

INFANT JOY

I have no name
I am but two days old.—
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,—
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.

-William Blake

 

Our tiny playground in the city.

Nearly every day Raj and I spend quite a bit of time on the balcony of the 13th-floor apartment where his family lives. It’s above a major intersection with a couple dozen lanes of traffic meeting and surging with cars, trucks and buses most of the day. To the east between the high-rises we can see a slice of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. When my grandson sees a jet take off he squeals; a few seconds later we see it emerge from behind tall buildings to the north, and much smaller to the eye. But he is still watching it.

Emergency vehicles sound their sirens in the neighborhood at least a couple of times every day, and sometimes we will hurry out and try to spot them. If not, we’re sure to see one or several of Raj’s favorite Metro buses waiting at a stop light just below. We’ve shared the delights of cement mixers, dump trucks, car transports and motorcycles. Once it was three police cars in a line, lights flashing. On the balcony itself is Daddy’s bicycle, a vehicle he can  even put his hands on, and examine small parts like wheel, reflector and pedals.

All of that transportation stuff would be exciting enough for a toddler, but there are a surprising number of experiences of flora and fauna as well. Pigeons and sparrows land on the rail. Spiders spin webs during the night and in the morning the birds swoop down and eat the spiders. One day we watched a slender and elegant fly as it crawled along the edge of the balcony for several feet, and as it made a left turn to cross the span and continue up the wall of the building. We watched it go all the way to the top of a window and disappear into a crack, and Raj waved good-bye. Then it came out of the crack again! He never lost his focus on that creature until it vanished again for good.

Raj doesn’t talk yet, but he uses many signs to communicate; some of these are standard sign language that many parents nowadays teach their babies, and others he has invented himself. By signs he can say “please,” “thank you,” “more,” “all done,” “Daddy,” “hot,” “cold,” “I like this food,” and at least several other things I can’t think of or that he doesn’t use as often. One experience he can indicate is of the wind.

Many times when we are looking over the balcony, a breeze will come up, and a few times when that happened I have mentioned it to him. One day we were standing at the railing in silent contemplation, punctuated by the occasional “Hmm!” from Raj that seems to be his    comment on anything positive. This time, when the wind came up, he was the one who first noted it, by making sweeping, large and circular movements with his arms.

The balcony is the place to experience (and “talk” about) the heat of the metal wall at one end, when he runs the length of its patio and bangs on it with both little hands. There is an overhang above — perhaps the balcony of the next apartment up? — but not extending so far that one can’t stretch an arm into falling rain, or find very shallow puddles to splash in. Even with many high-rise buildings all around, the sky is huge and ever changing, often with clouds that are well worth talking about.

Our boy is never on the balcony without an adult companion, and from my first time out there with him we have enjoyed and refined our game of copy-cat. First, he would merely run full speed from one end to the other and back, and I would follow exactly. Raj added a certain arm-swing to his choreography, and the next day dance-y hops. Lately he likes to lead me in walking backward the whole way, sometimes stopping suddenly to line up our feet just-so, so that we can look at our toes side-by-side.

I’ve been impressed with the richness of this child’s life overall — full of stimulation and human warmth and at the same time very ordered and routine. Having a nanny to push you to the park almost every day is a boon, and currently several adults to make sure that you can eat and sleep at regular times even when there is a new baby in the house.

For a short time in his life, his days will include this simple balcony with no furniture typical of a patio area. His parents don’t want any items that he might learn to climb up on. Until this week when a larger plastic fire truck came into the household, no toys were allowed out there, because they could fall through the spaces or be thrown over the top.

For an even shorter time Raj has this grandma to play our particular balcony games with him. That space is simple and plain, and many adults not carrying a phone wouldn’t know what to do there. But it’s a fun playground where a toddler can exercise not only his short legs but his attention span. He can tune his senses to the life of the city and participate in a vast world.

Rigo

Some of you knew, and others of you maybe guessed, that I had come to visit Kate this month so that I’d be present for the birth of a grandchild. He has arrived, a little brother for Raj, and has expanded our family and our hearts. I have never been more blessed to share in this kind of history-making.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when my friends and I were in our childbearing years, many of us decided that we wanted to give birth at home, where we could enjoy the miracle event in a warm and quiet environment surrounded by our dearest people. In hospitals in those days,  various inappropriate medical protocols were routinely applied to women and newborns, as they still are in some “modernizing” places in the world.

Most of my likeminded peers found doctors and lay midwives to attend births; a few did it without any outside help. One doctor in our county attended my first child’s birth in a hospital, and three at home. Kate was my last baby, born at home with a certified nurse-midwife in attendance. We usually liked to have two or more other women at hand to help with household or birth-related tasks as well. Maybe to watch older children, bake a birth day cake, fetch things for the midwife or make up the bed with clean sheets afterward.

I was one of these friends who was happy to be called, often as a sort of lay doula whose only training had been on-the-job, and from my own experience. The cultural setting of a certain time and place gave me special opportunities, and Providence enabled me to take advantage of them.

These blessings have continued as my own daughters have asked me to be with them in the hospital when they give birth. I’m aware that not every grandmother gets this kind of invitation; so often we are the ones who take care of older children when a younger sibling is coming into the family. Even in cases where we might fit into the birth plan more directly, it doesn’t always work out. Joy asked both her mother and mother-in-law, and it was impossible for either of us, four times.

I am supremely grateful for these experiences. To accompany a woman on her birth journey, to wait together as women have done since the beginning of time, feels like a sacred trust. Waiting on God and waiting for the process to unfold, from the first signs of labor until the child is placed in her arms… it is such a privilege. And it never gets old, seeing a child emerge from the womb.

For a long time now, the births I have waited for and witnessed have all been in hospitals. These days most of them are peaceful and geared to the needs of the families more than to hospital efficiency, and sometimes I even have a rocking chair to rock in while we wait and pray, or chat quietly. Or sleep, as Kate and both of us fellow-waiters did for a while before this child decided to get on with it.

And when he did push out and take his first breath, the momentous moment passed without a nod at its passing. The next moment was full of jubilance and awe. We laughed, and wept. Everyone admired the little round head. Soon he was snuggled up to Kate,  looking all around, and suckling. A human’s skin is never so soft as when he is fresh from the womb; then begins the lifelong drying-up process. But not to worry — there is plenty of softness at the totally out-of-this world level for a couple of months, and we are smooching him as though by our kisses we drink from the fountain of youth.

I’ve nicknamed the tiny guy “Amerigo,” or “Rigo” for short, for purposes of my blog, after the cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci whose (latinized) name was given to the New World.

Welcome, little Rigo! God bless you as you begin your explorations!