I’ve been shopping for baby clothes! No, not for a grandchild. That’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future, but it’s almost as good. I am on the verge of becoming an adopted grandmother (if there is such a thing.)
Where to start? Okay: Annie. Annie sings in the same choir as I do. I don’t know much of her story. She has no children of her own, but she seems to attract strays. These past several weeks she has come to choir with a toddler belonging to a family she is currently sheltering. This past Thursday, Annie showed up with another baby all snuggled in her car seat. She (Annie) was on the verge of tears. “I can’t pick her up,” she sobbed. “I can’t let myself bond with her. I’ve got too much on my plate already. I can’t take care of this one, too.”
Jordan Lynne, that’s her name. She’s just a month old, and just as sweet a child as anyone could ever wish for. Mom is just sixteen. The night before, she had been kicked out of her home. Grandma declared that she couldn’t put up with any more of this (pardon me) “sh***,” she’d had it with “all this baby c*** all over the place.” She was fed up with “its” crying at all hours of the day and night. She’d “put up with it with [her] own two, and she wasn’t going through that again .” So at 10 o’clock at night, she handed Whitney the baby in her car seat and put her out in the street, telling her to “take ‘it’ and get the f*** out,” and not to come back. So there was Whitney, a child, herself, out on the street with the baby, It was raining.
It sounds like a scene out of Dickens, doesn’t it, written to break your heart. Well, it does. It did mine, anyway.
Happily, Whitney thought to call a friend, who happened to be Annie’s niece. And the niece called Annie. Next morning, twenty minutes before choir, the two girls (both exhausted) dropped the baby with Annie, and found a place on the couch or wherever, to fall asleep. Annie brought the little one to choir, still in her car seat. Mostly, she slept. She’s only a month old, after all, but she did wake up eventually. Several of the women, (not Annie,) took her in turns. There were two bottles of formula, so she was fed and changed, cuddled…and surrounded with love. At one point, I turned to my friend, Sylvia, who sings beside me and only half jokingly complained, “No one ever offers me the baby.” She laughed and said, “Well, you’ll just have to take her, then!”
I’m afraid I wasn’t much help with clean-up afterward, because that was exactly what I did. I had the baby, and I wasn’t about to give her up.
She woke up as I took her (from Sylvia), but she didn’t fuss. She was warm, and clean, and fed. She just wanted to look around. She smiled at me. I know, I know…babyies aren’t supposed to smile, but they do, and she did. Briefly, it’s true, but she did. Twice. Is there anything in the world that will melt your heart sooner than a baby’s smile? I can’t think of anything. Then she settled back down and went to sleep in my arms. Everyone was leaving, and I still had the baby. That was when Annie came up to me and asked if I could help. Would I be willing? Could I step up as sort of an adopted grandma…someone who would just “be there” if Whitney needed someone to talk to, or if she needed a break, (or a nap)…someone who had been through all this before, and who could just do the sorts of things that grandmas do? She looked at me and said, “You’ve bonded with her already, haven’t you?” I think there must have been tears in my eyes. I had to admit it was true. “Sometimes,” she said softly, “these gifts just come to us.”
And so they do.
I’ve spoken to Whitney a couple of times over the phone, but we haven’t met face to face yet. I wanted to invite her to join us for dinner on Mother’s Day…I’m sure no one in her family is going to celebrate in her honor, but I was already committed elsewhere, so I’ve invited the three of them, Whitney, Annie’s niece, and of course, Jordan, to dinner on Monday, instead. I’ll be calling her this afternoon to confirm.
And today I went shopping for baby clothes…a joy I never imagined would be mine.
This past week has been difficult for several of my close friends. My friend, Joy, has not been well, and has been in a lot of pain. (The doctor has prescribed morphine, so you can imagine how severe.) Another friend, lost her son to a sudden heart attack a year ago last Thursday, and she has had to deal with that sad anniversary on her own. And a third has just received the news that her cancer is back. So much pain around me, and I just ache, because I can’t do anything about it. At least being there for Jordan and her mom is something I can do.
One of the things I am noticing about myself, since I started living full-time is that more and more, I am giving myself permission. Permission especially, to love. I don’t know what is going on, but it feels almost as if the universe is taking care of me in return. I am being showered with gifts: kindnesses and coincidences, and love that I never thought to have, and from places I would never have imagined they could come. My counsellor once observed that, “Everyone needs someone to give their love to. In an unhappy relationship, you are denied that chance, because you know it will be unwelcome.” I hadn’t thought of that, before, but it’s true. We all need an opportunity to give, to love. Well, I am finding people to love, and I’m giving myself permission to love this child and her mother. Not that it matters, (it would be enough simply to give,) but I am learning that whenever I do this, love seems to be come back to me doubled and redoubled. I am mystified that it should be so, but grateful, all the same.
As Juliet observes, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea! The more I give, the more I have, for both are infinite!” A foolish lover, I have always thought her; but it turns out, wiser, far, than me.