Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A bittersweet birthday post


I think there are likely a hundred other words I could use to describe a first birthday. For instance: Delight. Nostalgia. Giddy. Reflection. Exhaustion.

But there it is. As raw and unexpected as a sunburn in January.

We have been reading DiCmaillo’s The Tale of Despereaux aloud, and though Henry and Sophia make it only a few paragraphs before nodding off, certain phrases echo through my thoughts long after they’ve been put in their crib.

And I hope their thoughts as well.

I will paraphrase one in particular for you. “Reader, I am sorry to tell you, but there is evil in the world. Sadness. The world is not all light.” 

I  remember a year ago the comments that came as January marched on by. “Too bad they weren’t Christmas babies. Christmas season babies are special.”

This comment bothered me. Mostly because it wanted my children to be something they were not. And my kids not special? Honestly.

I got over it. Sort of.

But then came the observations on the day they were born: why that day. What a day to be born. A day with so much sadness, despair, hopelessness.

I resented the remark for awhile and did not watch the news in the hospital. Focus on the good – my innocent sweet babies and ignore the bad. Shelter them; shield myself. Natural - right?

Shortly after we came home, however, I read that the twins’ delivering physician left with six others to Port-au-Prince on a medical mission.

To help. To serve.

It was the first of many things this year which stirred me.

If asked a year ago, I think I would have predicted many things which did not come true. Relationships I thought would be cultivated withered. Rotted. My greatest allies are those in a different situation than mine; my closest sources of maternal advice live hundreds and thousands of miles away. Co-workers stop by briefly on their lunches. Just to say hello. Sit on the floor. Change a diaper. 

One lost her niece in Haiti. She adores Henry and Sophia. Showers them with gifts. Her candor, her spirit, have always inspired me.

The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, she said quietly with a sad smile when I asked about her holiday.

Another stirring.

These unexpected sources of encouragement, advice, understanding has left me with the realization that none of this – not one single thing – can be expected. Anticipated.

It is all a surprise.

A friend of mine, unknowing of my issue with the Christmas-baby comment, sent me a bit of Howard Thurman. On a crumbled piece of paper which looked to be photocopied a zillion times. With no note, explanation, source. It just sort of appeared:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.

This is Henry and Sophia’s lot being born post-holidays and on the day of unknowable grief in Haiti. And the lot of all of us, I think. Christmas is about serving and learning past the twenty-fifth of December and even the ninth of January. This is a tough time to be born - especially in the wake of last weekend. Indeed, for news readers, this week has been a tough one to swallow.

Scott Kelly’s comments from the Space Station on how we look from afar, versus how we act, speak to Despereaux Tilling. And in my home two babies smile, lick fresh cream-cheese-frosting off their fingers, flip pages of board books, don homemade shirts and climb in and out of bright blue tunnels unknowing of anything going on. Or of the world's concerns. 

So I finally make peace with things out of my control. And do not pretend every day will be a happy one. Or a sad one. Or an easy one. Or a bittersweet one. But just One.

So happy One, guys. 

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