“I used to hold you just like this,” Ruby says, cuddling my namesake, Rosalie, in her arms.
Rosalie is asleep, Ruby having worn her out cooing and playing patty cake and sandman and half a dozen other games grown-ups play with wide-awake, well-fed babies.
It is a gorgeous, sunny day in the nursery. Gauzy white curtains flutter at the screened sills. The windows across the western wall are thrown open, letting the spring breezes through–as well as the scents of fresh laundry flapping on the lines and apple pie baking in the kitchens.
Ruby–my mother–and I have taken nursery duty together all my life. Well, almost all. There were a couple of years when I was ten or so that I wanted nothing to do with Mama and the nursery. But I loved being with the babies so much that my little rebellion soon gave way.
“It’s always been our special time,” Ruby says, tenderly stroking Rosalie’s perfectly shaped head. “As strong as you were in the fields and orchards–digging holes to plant saplings since you were but a mite yourself, wielding pruning saws, dragging and chopping limbs bigger than you were–you always had that tenderness with the wee ones.”
Ruby smiles, and I want to tell her I got it all from her, my big-boned Mama, strong, durable, and possessed of a gentle touch and knowing eye that understood my soul and never accused. But we’ve had this conversation before.
“I’d have had ten babies myself if it weren’t totally irresponsible,” I say instead.
“Well, this way you got to have all the fun of babies and miss most of the sleepless nights!”
“Hey you two.”
It’s Noah, in from a walk around the park with little Jordan. Noah rocks back and forth on his heels as he adjusts the weight of the baby carrier on his hips. Jordan is 13 months old and loves riding on tall Noah’s back. Now he too is asleep, his shiny curls all I can see of his head above the cushioned rim of the carrier.
“I guess I should put him down,” Noah says, “but I love feeling him close. He’s growing up so fast!”
“They certainly do, Noah,” Ruby looks at me, and though I’m 57 years old, I know she is remembering me in some other time, bouncing around and driving her nuts, probably. “You can never give your son enough attention, Noah, waking or sleeping.”
Then, out of my mouth comes that tired old phrase that only parents of grown children fully appreciate. “Enjoy him while you can.”
“Oh yes,” Noah says, simultaneously knowing, as young parents do watching their children change before their eyes, and not knowing, as no one can until the years have passed, how fast little Jordan will become a grown man. “We certainly do. Did you know he has four teeth already?”
Rosalie shifts in Ruby’s arms and makes a contented little sound. She will waken soon, rooting for her mama’s nipple.
“Good thing Mary is due in any minute,” I say, rising to tend two-year old Nell, my charge for the day, stretching and looking around sleepily as she wakes from her afternoon nap.
“Mary knows her baby’s patterns very well already,” Ruby says. “She is always on time for the next feeding.”
“She was telling Betty just yesterday what a treat it is to get back to teaching for a couple of hours a day,” Noah says. “You can’t imagine how much she appreciates your being here and taking care of Rosalie.”
“Oh yes we can!” Ruby and I both laugh, remembering the freedom a couple hours away from the baby can give to a tired, worn mom. Noah laughs too.
“I guess I don’t have to tell you two what it’s like. But you know,” his eyes turn serious, “No matter how tired Betty and I get with all the responsibilities of a small child, we both feel as though we can never get enough of him. We always want a few more minutes of awake time, a little while longer in the rocker with him sleeping on our shoulder, or like this, on my back.”
“Yup,” Ruby says, sniffing Rosalie’s fine hair.
I nod. I would give up three hours of painting for one hour with these sweet ones, my Mama, and old friends any day of the week.
Thank you, Spirit, for this afternoon of quiet joy. Thank you for love, for soft baby cheeks and tufted hair, for parents who love their children more than breath, for the person who invented rocking chairs, for sunshine and blooming plum trees and soft breezes through the open windows.
Thank you for Nell, perfection herself, wanting to know if there is anything to eat, and can we go look at the ducks by the pond, and when are we going to go play in the snow again?