By L&T Columnist Rachel Coleman
As I staggered through the end of a long, stressful day, my grandson came to see me. In fact, his parents brought him — he is not able to drive, as he’s a mere two months old. He did more sleepy snuggling than “seeing,” during the visit, since it was 10:30 p.m., and still an hour or two before his usual wake-up time, his dad told me.
Didn’t matter. After sitting through a three-hour meeting with the USD 480 school board, parents and administrators, I was ready for sleepy and uncomplicated.
I’m not complaining about the work. Local issues matter. The way people in this community sort out our differing opinions and find solutions to problems can be exhausting and inspiring in equal parts. That’s the deal: if you engage with real life, buckle your seat belt. There is no doubt in my mind that I am not the only person who left the Wednesday meeting simmering with questions, thoughts and observations.
It’s too bad we don’t have an inexhaustible supply of adorable two-month-old babies like my grandson Julius for everyone to hold. But there’s only one of him, and I had first dibs.
That in itself was a coup. At least three of the four members of my household wanted to get their germ-infested hands on the little guy. The fourth person, who I won’t name, is still in awe of the baby’s fragile power. Right now, they’re bonding from a distance. I, meanwhile, am bonding up close and incoherent.
“Look at him,” I say inanely. It’s obvious nobody wants to do anything but look at him. Or, it could be they resent me for having grabbed the baby first. They will give me a polite version of the silent treatment until I relinquish him, which I might or might not do in the next two hours. In the meantime, I remind them all that “He’s so perfect!”
I have announced his perfection repeatedly since Aug. 16, when he was born, but I feel the need to repeat myself. Because he is. Perfect.
After that, I run out of comments and just stare at him. His long, elegant fingers. His small, fierce feet. His squinchy expressions, which always smooth out into peaceful, photo-worthy repose. His hair, abundant, slightly curly, smelling clean and sleepy and just as it should, as E.B. White would say, “if his mother keeps him tidy.”
And his mother and father do just that. It seems they only graduated high school recently, but here they are, behaving as adults, working as a team to make a home for the little guy. They have jobs. They rent a little house. They purchased a new dining room table last week and assembled it according to the instructions. They are nearly as adorable as the baby, which is impossible because Julius sets the standard for adorableness and there’s no comparison, but holding a grandchild does crazy things to the logic centers of a person’s mind, so I am not responsible for my careless pronouncements.
While I babble and admire the fledgling family, the teenagers in my house have taken stock of the changes. Their conclusion? Big brother and his fiancee have left the category of young and hip, and are now old and stodgy. Evidence: the young (to me) parents discuss the prices of things — socks, diapers, gym memberships, gasoline, furniture; these ancient (to my younger children) parents have not explored the wonders of SnapChat or Vine or the latest social media apps that are downloadable by phone. Final proof? They value sleep.
“Yeah, Julius is sleeping now, but once we go home …” His young? old? father shakes his head. “He’ll be up all night.”
Julius’ mother just nods in that slightly dazed, sweetly sleep-deprived way typical of new mothers. My own children — who occasionally prompt the dazed expression that I hope is still sweet on a veteran parent but know deep down is just plain haggard-looking — appear profoundly unconcerned about the late night ahead of their older brother. Staying up instead of sleeping? Isn’t that why the Internet is always on? Is there a problem?
With that, I realize I’ve come full circle, holding this grandchild who reminds me of my own youngest son. Without the chaos of early childhood years, the challenges of being someone’s stepmother, the sleepless nights and the ever-precarious budget gymnastics we performed, I would not be right here, on this love seat, holding this solid, sleepy baby in my arms. Work can wait. The rest of the family can line up and watch the clock until it’s their turn.
Just like the baby I’m holding, this moment — so long in coming — is perfect.