Thursday, September 20, 2012


Ben, chuckling, at about three months old
 Ben called last night and in the middle of recounting the story of a recent meal, he started laughing.

Genuine, spontaneous laughter.

Ben and I have been more in touch the last three weeks than the last several years. There are lots of reasons for the long silences, just as there are lots of reasons why we are suddenly talking and emailing so much. I am grateful, not analytical. Ben generated the call last night and was so talkative that I hung up with tears in my eyes, I was that happy.

His outburst of laughter triggered a memory of Ben's early days of laughing.

I chronicled a lot of my children's early lives. Ben more so than Sam, because when there is only one child, it is much easier to mark down the milestones and the "firsts." (Sorry, Sam.) And because I did chronicle so much, I know that Ben laughed first on February 10, 1986, when his father shook a pair of baby sweat pants over him. Per my notes, Ben "kept breaking into chortles."

That was not the memory of first laughter I had, but mine is similar in vein. I remember hauling up one baby and a basket of clean laundry to our second floor apartment. I put Ben on his back in the middle of our bed while I folded and stacked laundry all around him. I picked up one of a multitude of "burp rags," this one a long, gauzy kind, to fold. As I shook it out, it floated above Ben, who proceeded to let out a string of laughs.

I whisked the cloth back and forth above him, almost grazing his forehead. Ben's eyes widened and his laughter spilled out. We played the "whisking burp rag" game for several minutes until Ben giggled and chuckled himself to sleep, napping amidst the laundry.

J. M. Barrie wrote in Peter Pan, "When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies."

Barrie was on the right track. A baby's first laugh is so full of wonder and delight that it breaks into a thousand blessings, and they all skip about about filling our hearts and lives with joy.

To hear Ben's laughter last night—unforced, natural, heartfelt—brought back that long ago little baby laughing and giggling a thousand blessings into my life.

Ben and Alise are just starting out with Ramona. She is still so new and unacquainted with the world that laughter probably isn't on her agenda yet. But Ben is laughing and, while he laughed, I could hear Alise in the background with rich laughter in her voice. Ramona will catch on soon enough.

And when she does, may a thousand blessings flow.

Sleeping Ramona, at about two weeks old 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dress

One of the advantages of having a (very) small wardrobe is I have a pretty good idea of how long I have had this or that skirt or dress or top. Trust me, I rarely think about those kinds of things, but today was an exception.

Today I wore the black print dress, something I have not worn in, well, many years. Maybe six, maybe seven. It's been long enough since I last wore it that Warren looked up in surprise and said, "I don't think I've ever seen you in that dress!"

Maybe, maybe not. I had not forgotten the dress (which is far older than six or seven years), but it and a few others were shoved over to one side of the closet, half-hidden, and today I pulled them out, dusted them off, and wore one.

An aside: I hate the closets in our bedroom. Victims of a closet organization system, they are inconveniently laid out, with ridiculous heights (and I am by far the individual with the longest arm reach, including Warren, ever to occupy this house) and awkward spaces. So although the closet is not a massive one in which clothes could get lost, clothes sometimes get misplaced because of the layout. That's quite a feat when you realize how few clothes I own.

A second aside: How few clothes do I own? Few enough that a girlfriend once opened the closet at my old apartment and screamed—not in delight—at the sight. "Is this all you own?" she shrieked. And I owned more then than now.

Back to the dress.

The dress is between 15 and 17 years old. I can date it that accurately because of Sam.

When Sam was young, perhaps five (17 years ago), perhaps a little older, he loved gum. Loved? Sam adored gum. Sam worshipped gum. Sam lived for gum. And because he loved gum so much, he always had some nearby: on the nightstand, on the floor of the playroom, in his pockets when he went out to play.

It was the "in his pockets" that kept tripping me up. If Sam's pants hit the wash without someone emptying the pockets, the gum would go into the wash too. And if sharp eyes did not catch the gum in the wet laundry, the gum would migrate to the dryer, where it would disintegrate and melt onto clothing.

I was once in court during the gum years, wearing the same dress I wore today, waiting for a hearing to start. I looked down and noticed a blotch on the dark skirt of the dress. Had I spilled something at lunch? Salad dressing, perhaps? I surreptitiously dabbed at it.

It was gum.

It was Sam's gum.

It was Sam's gum broken up and melted into dozens and dozens of little blotches all over my dress.

This many years later, I cannot tell you what the hearing was about that day. I can tell you I was uncomfortably aware of my gum-stained outfit. And I distinctly remember sitting at the dining room table that night, long after Sam had gone to sleep, finding and scraping off with a knife and an ice cube every single splotch of gum. (It took two more launderings and wearings before the last piece was found and removed.)

It has been a long time since I have dealt with gum in the laundry. My little gum lover is all grown up and does his own laundry now.

The gum memory, though, is still strong. Waiting today at court for parties to arrive, I sat in the lobby and chatted with Scott, my former law partner. We exchanged book recommendations, as we often do. And at least once while we talked and laughed, I glanced down at the dark skirt of my dress.

I knew I wouldn't find any gum, but I looked all the same for it—the faint touch from the past, the little handprint to my heart.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ramona Dawn

                             She came without ribbons. She came without tags! 
                             She came without packages, boxes, and bags!
                                                     With apologies to Dr. Seuss

We have been waiting forever, it would seem. Oh, not really forever, just nine months, but it seemed like forever. It seemed like dream time, when everything moves in slow motion, liquid syrupy slowness.

The sense of liquid syrupy slowness increased greatly after Alise called me over a week ago to say she was having contractions, that she and Ben had been to the hospital but sent home and told to walk around and return when she started to feel uncomfortable.

Walk around until she started to feel uncomfortable? By Monday, Alise was back at work. And Ramona was, well, not yet here. And so it went, until yesterday when Ben called to say "we are at the hospital."

We were on the way out the door to the home of our good friends, Margo and Gerald. I cannot think of friends I would rather be with while waiting for Ramona's arrival. Ben promised he would keep me posted, which he did up right up and through the moment he called to say, "mom, you're a grandmother."

Now the time is real time. Now the last nine months have been compressed into that one phone call. Now the clock is moving in the right rhythm. Now the dreaming is over and the real work begins.

Ramona Dawn has arrived.