Monday, December 23, 2013

Caring for Bailey and warming my heart

Bailey fed, dry and happy and spending
the day with Pops. Can you say ahhh!
I finished up my first week of Bailey sitting recently and, somewhat miraculously, both my granddaughter and I are still around and fond of one another.

My daughter Lauren has headed back to work and, thankfully, there’s a gaggle of grandparents available to handle daycare. For a bunch of logistical reasons, I was the lucky guy, along with an assist from the always lovely Miss Wendy, tapped to spend time with Bailey last week.
It’s been an adventure!

At its heart, the job can be summed up in one word: poop and pee. Okay, that’s actually three words; but, hopefully, you get the idea. I know there’s the whole feeding thing also. But I sort of group that in with the pooping and peeing; it’s all one ongoing cycle!
Truth to tell, the real work is best defined as simply being. I’ll explain.

For most of my life I had a job that defined success by my doing something. I imagine that pretty much captures the point of most jobs, whether you’re making widgets, managing a hedge fund or digging ditches. In my case, I played with words as a reporter and editor for newspapers across the Land of Cotton.
Caring for Bailey does involve a bit of work. But after I spend a few minutes each day feeding her and making sure her diaper is clean, what I’m really doing is simply being with her. I hold and gently rock her; I hum songs from my childhood and make up tunes that keep her happy; I make silly faces and silly noises; I walk her about the house in my arms when she’s fussy and on pleasant days push her around the neighborhood in a stroller.

I learned all these special tricks over three decades ago after Wendy and I went looking for a pediatrician who, we hoped, would be able to detail the secrets of childcare. Wendy was pregnant and we didn’t have a clue about taking care of a baby.
Stephen King told us not to worry. He’s the doctor we found to take care of Lauren and, serendipitously, is the senior physician now in the practice that Lauren and Josh selected for Bailey’s care.  When we met all those years ago I was expecting him to listen to our concerns and then produce a spread sheet and expansive notes on how and when to do everything – feeding, diapering, bathing, sleeping.

Instead, he offered three words of advice: Love your baby. He then added, “Everything will be okay.” And, well, it was and is.
That’s what I’m doing now with Bailey, loving her.

And if I or Wendy or Janice – that would be Josh’s Mom and Bailey’s other Grandma – do our job really well, if we keep Bailey fed and dry, safe and happy, we get to hold her while she sleeps contentedly in our arms or offers up an innocent smile that is achingly beautiful.
That’s the kind of holiday bonus that’s really meaningful. It doesn’t have much purchasing power, but it certainly warms the heart on a chilly winter day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

It’s official: Bailey Rebecca becomes Chana Tovah

Bailey all decked out in her Etz Chaim
T-shirt that she was given as a present during
her baby naming last weekend.
Want to know what perfection looks like? I came close to spotting it over the weekend when Georgia won, Alabama lost and my granddaughter was “officially” named during Shabbat services at my synagogue.

The football games were nice – actually, incredible – but the icing on the cake was Bailey’s debut in the Jewish community, a transcendent moment of high ritual and ancient prayers when my eight-week-old granddaughter received her Hebrew name, Chana Tovah.
Boys are circumcised and given their Hebrew name when they are only eight days old; an ancient practice, the Brit Milah, which makes them officially part of the covenant of Abraham. This all might seem a bit bizarre for those of you outside the Tribe. Let’s just agree it’s a Jewish thing, and leave it at that.

Meanwhile, in recent decades, little girls have been welcomed into the community with a small, significantly less traumatizing event: the baby naming. We Jews take formal Hebrew names both to honor and recall family members who have died and to use in Jewish rituals – being called to the Torah for an aliyah or on religious contracts like a ketubah. Again, it’s a Jewish thing!
Those are some of the esoteric details, but the moment is mostly a celebration of family and culture, an opportunity to embrace who and what we’re about as individuals, a community and a people. For a moment Bailey, her mom and dad, stood beaming on the bima, our rabbi declaring to the world that Chana Tovah has become part of our ancient covenant.

He then cradled her gently and offered up the Priestly Blessing, that God bless and keep Chana Tovah; that He fills her life with light and is gracious with her; that He lifts up His face and grants Bailey a life of Shalom, Peace!
Apparently the blessing worked!

Bailey was not only at peace, she pretty much took a ho-hum attitude to the entire affair. She managed to sleep through the entire service, only fluttered awake momentarily during the celebratory luncheon, and completely ignored the dozen or so folks passing her about like a pop-star fan in a mosh pit.
So this is for you Bailey, a little remembrance that perhaps you’ll read on the eve of your Bat Mitzvah in 2026 or when you graduate from the, ah, University of Georgia – okay, we’ll discuss school options later.

More importantly, maybe this tiny blog will remind you of who you are and what’s important in life as you prepare to be sworn in as the first Jew and second woman to be president of the United States.
With great parents and doting grandparents, loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends – many present and kvelling this festive weekend – it seems there are no limits on what you might accomplish with your life.

I’m just happy that I’ll be around to watch it all take shape in coming years.