Today I’m going to celebrate life, just as I did yesterday on the birthday of our first grandchild, who sure had a hard row at the first: He was so sleepy in his newborn weeks his two moms had to sometimes feed him with an eye dropper, urging the milk into his mouth in the tiniest increments.
It was the drug prescribed by the doctors that made him this way, though it wasn’t very long before they insisted the dosage be cut in half and then eliminated, at which point he woke and fattened up almost overnight, swelling like biscuits in the oven with yeasty life.
So yesterday this child turned eight and we went to his house last night for a feast of his favorite meal. His little brother was present and I guess you could say his baby sister was too though she is not yet born; she’s in her cocoon still and not due to break out for another week or so. Yet she must have heard us. She must know everyone’s voice by now, especially this birthday boy Eddie, and little David, and his parents. He has had a lovely childhood so far, what with playing in the snow, and digging up the yard up worse than a gopher, and setting up lemonade stands and drum sets in the driveway.
One time his parents came home to find that he’d talked the babysitter into letting him take the contents of an entire closet out into the driveway, improvising some sort of stage set. Even today his favorite thing seems to be organizing. Taking everything apart, then putting it together in a new way.
He has a questioning mind. Once when he was four, he spotted a crucifix on the wall of our bedroom, the bedroom of David and me, who are his maternal grandparents.
“What’s THAT?” He exclaimed, examining the limp body affixed to it.
“Well,” I said, “that was taken from my grandfather’s coffin just before they closed it”
He just looked at me. That’s not what he meant. He meant, “What on earth kind of thing is THIS to make a sculpture out of?”
Eddie is a Unitarian child being brought up in that clear-eyed tradition, going Sundays to a plain white church with clear panes of glass looking out at the old New England sky.
I started trying to explain what a crucifix was, how you call a cross a crucifix if it holds the image of the dying Christ and so on but he interrupted me: “Why is he dying?” he wanted to know, and “Why were they trying to kill him?” What was I thinking, talking to a child so young of driving nails through the flesh of a person everyone said was the nicest person you could ever meet? He was four years old!
I was in over my head in less than 30 seconds but that’s what happens with Eddie: he asks and you answer and the next thing you know the furniture in both of your minds has been moved around once again and you’re looking at things in a whole new light.
Anyway, now he’s eight, and the geese have come back to us a full three weeks earlier than they usually do and the Paper White Narcissus that six weeks ago was a fistful of hard round knuckles in a pot is today a glory of blossom, each stem, like this child, reaching its strong young neck up to the light.