Thursday, October 24, 2013

Joining Bailey in the 21st Century … WAWI

Bailey either wants me to give her a call -- this just a
few days after being born -- or, perhaps she's suggesting
it's time I GAL and buy a new phone!
There are all the obvious joys and delights of becoming a grandparent, especially the first time around. It’s a life-affirming adventure that has a way of grabbing your attention and forcing most of us to ignore the small problems of life while focusing on the transcendent moments.

For the lovely Miss Wendy and me, there’s another bit of good news. Bailey, who just celebrated three weeks of life on planet Earth, is managing to nudge her low-tech bubbe and pops into the 21st century. I’ll explain.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that we’re all zipping into a high-tech, digitalized world at the speed of light, filled with gadgets that both connect and, at times, push us apart.

Today you can pretty much hide away in a darkened room of your house, the bustling lobby of Grand Central Station or an intimate nook in your favorite coffee shop and, drumroll please, remain connected with your family, friends and colleagues – it’s magic!
With the right stuff and frame of mind, you can work and play games on a laptop; surf the web on a wide assortment of tablets, e-readers and other such devices and listen to music on itsy-bitsy Mp3 players. You can also mix and match all these gizmos and remain plugged in and tuned out till your mind turns to cheddar cheese!

You can also push aside all this expensive and hefty hardware and, for the most part, remain entertained and connected with one simple device that has become the high-tech toy of choice – the Smartphone!
That’s the good news. The problem is Wendy and I don’t have Smartphones. I’m don’t necessarily think the retro flip phones we carry around are “dumb”; but if you glance back at the photo of Bailey above I’m pretty sure she’s telling me it’s time to update and join her and everyone else in the 21st century.

After all, unless we plan to carry around a photo album filled with glossy 8 x 10s, there’s no easy way to show off pictures of the newest member of our family. And when we attempt to offer up the latest images on the one-inch screens on our flip phones, a magnifying glass is needed to make out details!
And then there’s the whole issue of texting. I’ve yet to master this ubiquitous form of communication and, truth to tell, I’ve yet to figure out why it’s not a whole lot easier simply to make a phone call. But Bailey and her mom, that would be my daughter Lauren, seem to think the time is right to make the leap.

And they might be right. Lauren sent a text to Wendy the other night when she and I and Bailey were getting to know one another and Lauren and Josh were out and about, enjoying a free evening. Lauren simply wanted to know if everything was OK.
Thirty minutes later, after both Wendy and I had whacked away at her flip phone, attempting to respond, we managed to report: xtyxxes. “Yes” is buried somewhere in that cryptic note and, IMHO, we’ll actually be able to write something legible once we have a phone that comes with a usable keyboard.

If not, I’m thinking Bailey might suggest it’s time we GAL. I agree. So the lovely Miss Wendy and I are off in search of a digital update. Stay tuned and BB4N!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bailey Update: Babies, grandparents and a ‘shayna punim’

Okay, really, you have to agree that Bailey is
a "shayna Punim", right?
It’s happened and I didn’t even see it coming. I’ve become my mother.

I was holding Bailey the other day – that would be my two-week-old granddaughter – and she was mostly doing her baby thing: lots of gentle sleeping, a little wiggling and a whole lot of just being cute.
Way back in the innards of my brain, apparently the part that is attracted by the serene sense of calm that newborns manufacture, a phrase started to take shape that I couldn’t quite put into words. It circled about for a while, lingering just on the tip of my tongue when, glancing down at Bailey, it tumbled out unexpectedly.

It was the focus of a sentence that, quite possibly, might be found if you look up the word “treacle” in the dictionary.
“Such a shayna punim; yes you are, oh yes you are!”

Oy! That’s another Yiddish word that means, well, oy.
For my Yiddish-challenged readers, shayna punim means “pretty face”. But, like lots of Yiddish phrases, it’s much more than simply a couple of words tacked together. It’s more a state of being and state of mind that, truth to tell, most all grandparents – Jewish or not – find in their grandchildren.

It’s a phrase that “yiddishe mamas” have been using for centuries and my mother offered up liberally when playing with her grandchildren and announcing to the world what a bit of perfection she’d stumbled onto.
That’s the wider meaning, the stuff of life that all babies capture. After all, in a tiny package of pinkness and hair, the potential for all they will ever become is making its debut and just about the only words that seem adequate for the occasion is the overly sentimental pronouncement, shayna punim.

So I’ve become my mother, not just using the phrase, but offering it up in that rhythmic, sing-songy voice that meshuggenah bubbes have, no doubt, copyrighted – I certainly don’t recall my father using the phrase.
I’ll know that the maternal link is absolute when I start using the term pisher, but I’ll save the details on that particular word and all that it means for another time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bailey update: Cooing, gurgling and a little smile

Josh and Bailey do a little father-daughter bonding
after arriving home from the hospital late last week.
So it was a simple question, an off-hand remark that got my attention and sent my blood-pressure soaring.

“Dad, I’m going to take a nap, so are you okay with Bailey?”
The person asking the question was my daughter, Lauren; and Bailey, my granddaughter, wasn’t raising any objections. On this day she was weighing in at just less than eight pounds and celebrating her fourth birthday – four full days on planet Earth! So, really, what’s the big deal, right?

After all, she was snoozing comfortably in my arms, wiggling about a bit and giving off those soft cooing and gurgling sounds that babies often make.
“No problem,” I said with all the bravado and good cheer I could muster. I mean, really, what could go wrong?

Ten minutes later and Lauren was off and napping in her room; I was gently rocking Bailey who remained adrift in that twilight world that babies frequent – not quite here, but working hard to figure out all the strange sights, sounds and feelings that we call home.
Nearby, Maggie and Ella – the canine members of the family – shuffled about, circling in search of that sweet spot where they could fall on their haunches and continue their afternoon siesta.

For a moment the room was filled with the euphonic and blissful sound of absolute contentment: the barely audible wheeze of air filtering through the black and wet nostrils of the dogs and the itty-bitty nose of Bailey. I was still holding my breath.

And then the doorbell rang.
The dogs were immediately up and barking, dashing for the door. I was yelling at them to quiet down and, fortunately, little Bailey was ignoring the commotion. Perhaps her face scrunched up a bit as I maneuvered my way up and off the couch in the living room, holding her close as I got to my feet in what can only be termed a masterful display of strength and dexterity.

I’m thinking what I managed was the sort of acrobatic maneuver that Cirque Soleil builds entire shows around. Then again, maybe not!  The good news is Bailey’s eyes stayed shut and her gentle cooing signaled she was still asleep.
So, too, apparently Lauren; she remained dozing in her room, a mom sleeping off an early-morning feeding and fussy follow through that had lasted until the sun settled on the horizon a few hours earlier. 

I quickly made my way to the door, the dogs at my heels, Bailey still in my arms. To my surprise, waiting to greet me was, well, no one. I uttered a well-chosen expletive, happy that my granddaughter was sleepily unaware of her Pops popping off and wondering if kids in the neighborhood were playing “ring and run” in the middle of the afternoon.
Then I spotted a package at my feet and heard a UPS truck chugging away in the distance. Only a few moments later our little group – Bailey, Ella, Maggie and me – was once again snuggly resting in the living room, order restored and the future looking bright. The quiet calm had me nodding off a bit, a sentry momentarily falling asleep at his post.

So it was with a little jerk of fright that after only a few seconds or so I woke and glanced down at Bailey. She was just managing – intentionally or not – to lift the corners of her mouth in her first-ever smile.

I glanced around to share the moment with anyone in hailing distance. Maggie and Ella took the news with quiet delight, glancing my way when I shared the news of my granddaughter’s little accomplishment.

Their bemused doggie stares reminded me that such is the stuff of life and, most probably, there will be additional "firsts" down the road.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bailey Rebecca and a "Season of Joy"

Lauren, Josh and the newest member of the family, Bailey
just moments after my granddaughter made her
grand entrance at Northside Hospital.
My son-in-law Josh came sauntering out of a longish hallway at Northside Hospital, a slight and weary smile spreading across his face.
His next few words changed my life.
“Want to meet your granddaughter,” he asked me and the other three grandparents-in-waiting nearby; all of us tired, anxious and thrilled and more than ready to leave the waiting room where we had been keeping watch for a dozen hours or so late last week.
We huddled outside the labor and delivery room – an expansive space that had the feel of a comfy hotel suite that just happened to be filled with high-tech medical gizmos and monitors – took a deep breath and walked gently into the future.
My daughter Lauren, the rigors of childbirth now a fading memory, looked remarkably calm, cradling the little girl who had just made her grand appearance into this world.  And, at least for an instance, my mind was filled with the melancholy image of my parents, no longer of this world, and a jumbled blur of clichés: L'dor vador, the Circle of Life, peek-a-boo-I-see-you!
It would seem that my mind had turned to mush after hours of pacing, fiddling with high-tech smart phones, iPads and e-readers; low-tech newspapers, magazines and paperback books; chowing down on the very best that McDonald’s and nearby vending machines had to offer and trying to find the sweet spot on the lumpy chairs and sofas spread about the hospital’s Women’s Center.
But the pristine beauty of my grandchild, the life and energy that filled the delivery room when I, my wife and machatunim – that would be Janice and Steve – finally got a chance to take a peek at the center of our new universe, brought about a bit of clarity and had me thinking of the Book of Ecclesiastes and, well, the 1965 hit by the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”.
Those of you of a certain generation, hum along if you like!
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A Time to be born, and a time to die … A time to weep, and a time to laugh … A time to mourn, and a time to dance … A time to love and a time to hate.
On this special morning, when the sun had yet to brush the horizon, the darkness was filled with the light and soft, sweet smell of a baby, Bailey Rebecca, not quite an hour old. And, at least for the moment, my family’s season was blessed and clearly a time to be born and laugh and dance and love.
A very short six decades ago and I was stumbling through childhood myself and then I blinked. The college years were mostly fun and filled with friends and new experiences and then I blinked again.
I married, started a new job here in Atlanta, then started a family. I blinked yet again – well, actually, several times – and found myself looking back wistfully at four decades of work and trying to figure out, as Cher once asked Alfie, “what’s it all about?”
Spending a moment with Bailey, my first grandchild, and the cyclical nature of life is finally starting to make a little sense. At least for today, I think Solomon got it about right when he – or, more likely, a number of scholars over a number of years – explored the nature of life and the seasons that fill our days.
It turns out that living really is about weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, loving and hating. Fortunately – and I think I speak for many bubbes, grannies and grandmas; zaides, grandpas and pops – life is constantly changing and the horizon continues to expand and shift, especially if there’s a baby resting comfortably in the near distance.
The really good news is that having the privilege to be part of the first moments of a new life – for me, Bailey’s – opens up a fresh new door. I think Solomon called it the Season of Joy.