On a sunny Saturday in March, I attended a baby shower for the daughter of my old friend. Continuity – uninterrupted links of friendship and family – filled that cheerful living room, along with the feeling of torches being passed in so many ways, watching my peers become grandmothers, watching the new generation of parents doing it their way.
I’ve known the mother-to-be since before she was born (when her mother and I were very new at the job). I peeked at her asleep in her little hospital basket, and later, shared years of family adventures with her.
A favorite memory from those days is of a little and blonde, slightly bossy four-year old, standing with hands on hips at the edge of a mountain lake, watching our golden-yellow tent float upside down across the lake and suggesting to my husband that, next time, he might want to stake that tent down. And now, in the wink of an eye, she will have her own child – a boy.
After the shower, I searched for a quote I remembered from Adam Gopnik’s book “Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York.” I love to read Gopnik – he guides me when he says “we can write about the world only by writing about a world.” And I’m captivated when he describes particulars of his family life in Paris and now New York.
I found the quote and began to reread here and there – enjoying things anew the way you do with a rich book. Gopnik is a modern father and he speculates: “The new paternal feeling is partly an effect of feminism, which required that mothers surrender exclusive child-love for freedom, and partly the consequence of many parents’ advanced childbearing age.” Gopnik says such fathers are more likely than fathers of old to have time to be around to do the daily nitty gritty. They cook meals and understand the important details, like who needs crusts cut from which kind of bread.
Gopnik describes months of cleverly texting (or so he thought) “LOL” to his son, mistakenly thinking it meant “lots of love” till his son gently set him straight. I also misapplied LOL at first. Good-hearted parental bumbling.
With chairs circled, we celebrated the shower ritual supporting the mother-to-be. Packages wrapped and tied, contained exquisite hand-knit hats and miniature sweaters, tiny blue jeans, three-inch shoes, and many, many books. This new little boy will come into the world wrapped in love – and warm blankets.
I looked for the Gopnik quote because he writes of the “precariousness of all things that exist in time,” and says: “A life whose meaning is found not in faith in the past, or the afterlife, but in family, in children, is fragile as no other can be.”
And it’s joyful – with lots of love and lots of laughs!