The tiny boy in my hands is a perfectly proportionate finely-featured human being in miniature. His eyes are shifting from newborn gray to paternal blue. His hair is growing from newborn black to maternal chestnut: lots of it, and curly. And I am holding him, baby Henry, the child of my child. In January. Holding him feels natural—I know the moving parts and the comforting positions, and where he needs support. At three weeks old, he looked into my eyes—he really did—and gazed at me for a good long time—he really did—and a not-gas-bubble smile began to play in the corner of his moving mouth on one side while he gazed—it really did. Somehow the world seems good and whole when holding a newborn. The problems melt away, and love flows. And I speak in gibberish the infant can understand because the sounds come from a smiling face and a lilting voice and dancing eyes, and those little ears take in the sounds and smiles and glints of light and love. Until three weeks ago I had one grandchild, the source of my greatest joy. Now Henry is here, and the stable of my heart has grown to make ample room for him in the manger, and will make more room in April, and more in October, and yet more….
(Above: Henry on a quilt sewn by his aunt Laura.)
Henry on a blanket crocheted by his great-aunt Carolyn.
Henry with his wonderful parents John and Alleigh.
Yours truly holding the sleeping baby Henry.
All parents have had the experience of children wandering into their room late at night, afraid or disoriented, and asking, “Can I sleep with you?” Rather than be angry or annoyed, we merely laid out the spare quilts, sewn by the children’s grandmothers. And we all fell asleep again. Waking early for work, I tip-toed over and around my sleeping children. Home in the evening, their quilts lay on the floor like the discarded skins of pupaed caterpillars taken flight. I hope you enjoy my poem memorializing that recollection.
Three quilts lie in a corner of my room,
folded, again, neatly, again;
three queen-size quilts
sewn and tied by gifting grandmothers
who rest under blanketing memory,
leaving to me these warm tokens.
From night-sleep stupor,
I hear distantly the click of a switch, and a flush,
an apologetic knocking, and a whispered “Dad,”
more like the hiss of heavy breathing than a name.
In my knowing, I find the corners
of a folded quilt and toss it out its full length
upon the floor, by the bed, where there’s room.
I could order them back to their beds, but
there seems to always be room.
In the obscurity of my morning,
I have sense enough
to step gingerly over and around
the boys, asleep in their quilted cocoons;
my boys, rising each day
with a deep life-breath yawn and
a stretching of slumber-stiff limbs,
flying from their crumpled quilts,
like the discarded skins of metamorphosis, with
only air and sky ahead.