The other night I said my goodbyes to Zoe while Sam and Tess, my son and daughter-in-law, had a micro-date-night downstairs. While they enjoyed some alone time, zoning out and watching an episode of the Sopranos, I sat in a swivel chair by an upstairs window, watching the diminishing, soft gray light of day fade from Zoe’s tiny, beautiful face.
This new family of three, together for not quite two weeks so far, has been through the fires of transformation together: 28 hours of labor, latching troubles, breast pumping marathons, bilirubin concerns, and days of limited, broken sleep for Mom and Dad. It’s no wonder new parents live under a thin veil of emotional stability. Baby Zoe wasn’t the only family member to cry in those first few days. Quiet tears streamed down Tess’s face when I went to say goodnight on the first night. But she and Sam sat side by side, buoying each other up. I hugged them before heading back to my Air B&B and wished them a manageable night.
The next morning, Sam made the mistake of asking me to remind him of the lyrics to a Peter, Paul, and Mary song called “The Cruel War,” a standard from his own childhood days of family song. When I got to the last verse of the hauntingly tragic ballad, I heard sobbing from the kitchen. My dear, grown son was overcome in the midst of spreading avocado on a piece of toast. I walked in and rubbed his back, strangely proud of this young man who has the strength and self-assurance to give in to tears, cathartic, cleansing tears.
I finally gave in to tears on my last night. I sat with Zoe for a transcendent hour, staring at my newest grandchild’s face. Her mouth puckers and opens, her brow lifts and wrinkles, a crumpled grimace then a crooked smile flits across her features and settles to peace again – I was mesmerized. Our homes are 600 miles apart, and I grieved at the thought of leaving, unsure when I will next hold that therapeutic weight of Zoe’s life in my arms.
I thought of the scene in Sleeping Beauty when fairies bestow blessings on the newborn Princess. In a makeshift mashup of storybook magic and prayer, I laid my blessings upon Zoe – good health, a bright mind, a strong body, curiosity, lots of laughter, and showers of love from all around. Oh, and a lifetime friendship with her Grammy, who fell permanently, hopelessly in love with her sitting by the window that evening, in the fading light of her eleventh day in the world.
Robin Clifford Wood is an award-winning author, poet, and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her children, grandchildren, and granddogs.