Saturday, August 14, 2004

Full frontal family musings

My house is full of children. Ruth and Wade are spending the weekend while their parents go to the last Phish concert in Vermont. Mike drove up from North Carolina to drive Ish, Ernie and Robbie to Gencon on Wednesday. Dave came last night to celebrate Walter and Bill's birthdays. Only Gabe is unseen but we are in email contact.

I was apprehensive about taking care of the grandkids all weekend. Now that I no longer have 24-hour care of children, I forget what it's like and I imagine, from the outside, only the loss of freedom. I ask myself, "How did you do it all those years?" What I had forgotten is that in return for the loss of freedom you get incredible benefits - continual interaction with sweet, affectionate (and yes bratty and snotty) children who have their own rhythms, their own way of life. Ruth is six years, Wade is 22 months old.

Wade is a revelation. I resisted saying or even thinking this the first few times it came to mind, since expressing myself on the subject involves a risk I have always hated to take, that of sentimentalizing my dead children -- technically and authentically saints in heaven now (NOT "little angels" like children including my own are often called - Fr. Masterson called Eric one in his funeral homily, but he can be forgiven for comforting a bereaved mom in the culturally acceptable but theologically dead wrong manner.) But having Wade around is like having Simon around again. I had forgotten, over time, how strong and attractive Simon's personality was, but here it is in so many ways duplicated in Wade. All kids are cute as they approach two. But Simon, who never made it past two years and two months, had a charm and a sunniness that made fools out of other people just as regular kids make fools out of their parents. He was eminently dotable. We used to remark on what his charm would lead him into as he grew up. The first time he met his grandmother Helen, he greeted her with a smile that lit up his face, and ran over to her right away and hugged her. Never had another kid so unshy and so delighted to be around people who were delighted with him.

Until Wade. This is his first overnight. Unlike Ruth's first overnight here, Wade has had no unhappy moments, no crying for Mama and Daddy when he's tired or when he just wakes up. He wakes up smiley, stays smiley all day, and goes to bed smiley but clingy. He is curious about everything and everyone, and he behaves like a happy king -- he knows he is the center of attention, he knows his courtiers bow to his every whim, and he is gracious in bestowing giggles and baby talk, hi 5's and knock knock jokes, on anyone who comes his way.

Yesterday, driving home from Milford from seeing Andrew Riddle for his chiropractic magic, I burst into tears for the first time in many years grieving for Simon. Time, plus my reluctance to sentimentalize or remember Simon's person extravagantly as one does of the dead, had made me forget how distinctive a personality he was. Wade is not Simon, of course. But Reetie has marveled at how sweet and easy a baby he is since he was born, and even my loyalty to my other wonderful children can't keep me from acknowledging that yes, I once had a baby like that, the kind of dream baby every mother imagines. They do exist, and they are not made that way, they seem to be born that way.

I will enjoy watching Wade grow up, to see what that kind of personality grows into over time. Beauty of personality, like beauty of body and often accompanying it (true with both Simon and Wade), is its own trial and poses its own sets of difficulties.

Meanwhile, last night Wade came and laid down next to me, cuddling up on my pillow, as comfortable with me as if I was his mother. I wanted to cry again.

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