Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Grandmother Soothers

Tonight's Surreal Moment: I experienced vivid memory flashes of grandmothers I've known calming fussy babies for overwhelmed mothers even as I, for the first time in my life, found myself doing the same. As a grandmother. Hard to wrap my mind around this ancient tradition, this loving service, this sharing, this blessing.

I remember, as a kid, grandmas cuddling babies, cooing into their ears while the babies' mouths screamed in discontent and tiny limbs thrust rigidly into the air. I remember the ladies looking so calm. So very very calm. I didn't understand how they could be so calm, what with that pint-sized being screaming bloody murder into the ears of everyone in the room. I know I was tense. Why weren't they, I wondered.

I remember being the tired mom who needed a break from soothing my baby. I loved my baby with all my heart, but I was so very tired. Sleepless nights, trying to find a new routine, love and exhaustion, and a body recuperating from pregnancy and childbirth. I remember the grandmothers sweetly offering to help. I remember being amazed, once again, at how calm the grannies were, how they, confident and unperturbed, seemed to enter a different seemingly mystical world, child in arms, whispers flowing from experienced lips to delicate baby ears, rhythmic swaying as in a sacred dance which transcended the generations. The women's demeanor befuddled me. It worked! They soothed the baby, every time.

This evening it was my new-mom daughter who was weary from walking the floor with her out-of-sorts baby. I could see the pain in her walk, her back hurt. I could see the fatigue in her eyes; it had been another long day and her husband was away in night school. She looked at me, and I became those grandmas. Unaware of my assertiveness, I offered to take my only grandchild, brand-new, one month old today, red-faced and howling, from my daughter's arms. She gave her willingly, in trust and hope. Normally, I wait for an invitation to hold the baby. My daughter prefers it that way, and I understand. It's her baby. Tonight, I uncharacteristically offered. She gratefully accepted.

As I meandered around our cozy, warmly-lit home, tiny child on my shoulder, I patted and rubbed her back as she cried and squirmed so pitifully. Into her precious ear I spoke grandmother words, words that easily came.

"It's okay if you need to cry. You go ahead and cry, my little bambina. I will stay with you. You are safe. Your mommy needs a rest. Let's give her a rest."

I cooed. I hummed. We swayed. As calm as could be, confident, too.

How did this happen? I have never been comfortable soothing babies other than my own. Normally, I am tense and anxious.

But this evening was different.

I heard my daughter conversing quietly with her dad in the other room. They were confident in me as well. But I felt no pressure. No, instead I imagined gentle hands on my shoulders, hands of all the departed grandmothers in my timeline as if welcoming me to the Grandmother Soothers Club. I had flashbacks of particular women who set the example for me so many years ago, role models. I felt that here was the moment that all those other moments led to: my moment to step up and comfort a grandchild so that my own child could have a respite. I felt such honor! Still do.

To be spiritually connected to my family timeline both forward and backward, as well as in the present, thrills me and humbles me.

Grandmothers are important. To be a grandmother in the vein of my ancestral grandmothers is my challenge and my goal.

They set the bar quite high.

'Riders on Earth Together'

 "To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold - brothers who know now they are truly brothers." ~~ Archibald MacLeish

A picture of the our planet globe floating in the vast dark, starry beyond would better fit MacLeish's poetic quote, this I know.

However, the two birds, one living, one ceramic tile, depict brotherhood to me somehow, a knowing, a familiarity, a symmetry of form and beauty. Yes, the living bird doesn't see himself in the painted bird, it's all just a good camera capture. 

Yes, we beings created in the image of God can see beyond the mere physical to the poetic, to analogy, to discovering something relatable in the idea of brotherhood depicted in the photo.

MacLeish sees 'riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold.' Isn't that what we are? Can we recognize that though we are not exactly the same in intellect, emotion, and  spirit, that in form and essence we are the same. 

We are the same species. To recognize this fact, to grasp it, is to understand the brother as riders on the bright loveliness that is Earth. There is no escape, not yet anyway. 

Would it not behoove us to behave as brothers who get along? Would we not all benefit from knowing that to foul our brother's nest is to foul our own? On the other hand, is it not true that to beautify and benefit our brother's existence is to beautify and benefit our own?

I'm not referring to environmentalism or diversity, or climate change or globalism or any sort of one world government. 

No, I am referring to common respect, to civility, to unity because we are all in this together. 

Yes, we have differences and we have the freedom to pursue those differences. The differences can occur without division. Respect for privacy allows for differences. Basic civility does, too.

Too much chatter about how we should all live and how we should all expect others to live, how we should think, what our dreams for the world should be have drowned out any soft and reasonable voices of  commonality between Earth's occupants. We all really want the same things: to be safe, to be fed, to be loved, to be happy, and all of these for our loved ones as well. It's up to each of us to make those things happen. We are not, after all, our brothers' keepers. 

Is it not possible to see each other as similar to ourselves and thus give each other the grace to reasonably pursue our safety and happiness in ways that suit us?

Yes, there are weird things going on in the world. Odd and strange and abnormal things and harmful things. Fringe things that exist on the edges. But most of us do not participate in those odd, strange, abnormal, harmful things. Those things get the bulk of attention, but we don't relate to those things, those outer edge fringe elements. That is not what I'm talking about.

Cannot we, as a species and as individuals cut through the noise, listen to that still small voice that says, "We are the created. He is the Creator. Let's focus on His principles, His ways."

Therein lies the problem.

We do not all hear His still small voice. 

Some hear another voice, a malevolent voice, a lying voice.

Where do we go from here?

We do the best we can. We realize our brotherhood as best we can. We love and offer grace as best we can. We take care of ourselves and our own.

And offer a helping hand to our fellows riders whenever we can.

Because we understand that we truly are riders on earth together.