Tuesday, October 04, 2011


When you have a new baby, everyone suddenly wants to tell you stories about babies - their babies, themselves as babies, the story they once heard about a friend of a friend's granddaughter's baby. 

They tell you these stories, and you start to realize that there is this whole body of information about people you thought you knew well, stories that somehow they'd never thought to tell you before.  You learn that your husband didn't sleep well until he found his thumb and his Humpty-Dumpty doll.  You learn that your grandmother breastfed her babies even when it was discouraged.  You learn that your best friend's baby only took 30 minute naps.

* * *

When he heard that Ellie had acid reflux, my Dad recalled a story I'd never heard before, a story about himself as a baby - his own fussyness, spitting up, and the miracle solution my grandmother came up with to cure him. "I think it had something to do with giving me cow's milk at an early age," he said, "but I"m not sure."

My grandfather couldn't remember either. "I remember Eva being rather proud of herself for figuring it out," he said, "but I can't tell you what it was."

For the first time since my grandmother's death over ten years ago, I realized that there were many stories that had died with her, stories only she could tell.  My Dad and grandfather are both masterful storytellers who can recall in vivid detail adventure after adventure on the farm where my Dad and his four brothers grew up.  They have stories to tell about bums sleeping in the barn, stories about chasing rats in a chicken coop, stories about my uncle falling down into a well and almost drowning.  But neither of them can remember what it was that helped my Dad as a baby.  That story, a story that might have helped me care for my own baby, was my grandmother's, and it, like her, is gone, never to return.

* * *

To be a mother, I am learning, is to be, among many other things, a keeper of stories, the caretaker of a vast body of information that no one else in the world is likely to pay particular attention to or to remember.
Of course, fathers remember many things, and I am sure there are some fathers who remember more stories and more details than mothers.  But it does seem that mothers have a unique capacity to store up and hold on to the stories of their children's lives.
We see this in Luke Chapter 2 where twice Luke notes that "Mary treasured up all these things in her heart," referring to the many unusual particulars surrounding Jesus' birth and early years - visiting shepherds, angel choirs, prophetic utterances, and of course, Jesus as a preteen teaching His elders.  Surely Joseph noted these things too, would have thought them remarkable and significant, but what Luke tells us is that Mary treasured them.  She is the one who valued these stories, held onto them, took care of them.
I imagine Mary as the teenager she herself was when Jesus was born, watching incredulously as these events transpired, marveling at the little body that had somehow come from her and still lay in her arms, knowing too that He was somehow God, that His coming marked a pivot point in all of human history.

* * *
In some ways, Mary's treasuring seems so different from my own.  Ellie is very much human.  There was no angel choir at her birth, just four beaming grandparents to sing her praises.  No one has prophesied anything about her, except I suppose, the same grandparents who are convinced she's smart, active, and extroverted.  And her birth, while monumental in my life and the life of our family, is just one of millions in human history, a rather ordinary, everyday occurence.

In other ways though, Mary's treasuring feels very much connected to my own.  I too am watching my child with wonder, knowing that she has been created to be someone unique and special, waiting to see her story unfold.  I treasure the glimpses of her personality I am beginning to see - the smile that lights up a room, the little body that won't stop moving, the way she tries to catch her Daddy's eye.

I don't yet know who she will become, but I am grateful that God has appointed me to be her mother, to carry her story close to my heart, to pay close attention to each chapter, to walk with her through every page.


Sarah Jessica Farber said...

This is so good, Abs, so incredibly polished. Beautiful.

Cortney said...

Beautiful Abby! Someday your granddaughter will need your stories... about Ellie and a lot of other things!

Cortney said...

Oh, and I love the part about the stories that suddenly surface when you have a baby.