A new life, a new love, a new role

When people pop out those pictures of their grandchildren, I've always thought, "Oh, please - get a life!" Most people I know became downright peculiar about grandchildren. The word "icky" might even be appropriate here.

Then my first grandchild was born.

Of course I had been excited and thrilled when my daughter got pregnant; I loved the idea of having a grandchild, especially a granddaughter. But what I didn't realize was that I'd fall in love with her instantly. I mean real love. Crazy song-lyric type love. My heart sings when I see her. I can stare at her face for hours. I just want to hold her. When I'm away from her my heart aches.

Where does all this love come from?

Over the years I've done a lot of thinking, not to mention talking, about love. I've read about love and I've written about it. I love my husband, my daughters, my extended family, and close friends. But that love is based on history and shared values, years of talking and thousands of memories. That love grew.

Of course I must have loved my daughters in this sudden, irrational way when they were born. But when you're the mother, you're consumed by the daily nitty-gritty of care - exhaustion, nursing the baby - and also the shifts in your relationship with the baby's father and with your own parents. Loving Emma feels much more pure, and at the same time filled with perspective.

Looking at Emma's face, I see into the future, and I also find the past. I think of all the faces in her family - her other grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her great-grandparents. I think of her great- great-grandparents, my own grandparents, who were born in the 1800s, two centuries ago. I think of all the nationalities and the races that combined to bring Emma to us.

But still I wonder: How does so much love appear so suddenly? I was bowled over by it when she was just one hour old and I held her for the very first time.

Loving Emma has left me inarticulate. Maybe when love is this pure it doesn't need words or explanations; it just is. I hold her and she stares back at me. Her expressions - half-smiles, yawns, sudden squinting red-faced cries of hunger - are infinitely interesting. So are the sounds she makes: little coos and grunts and startled noises that sound like "Ahah!" - as if she's just figured something out. Her face is the color of honey and peaches, her mouth is perfect, her eyes are ocean-colored, she has her father's long fingers, her mother's chin. She smells like clean laundry and flowers.

Yes, I'll admit it - pictures of Emma were whizzing through cyberspace the day after she was born.

And today, as I baby-sit for her and she naps in my office, I jump up from my computer every five minutes or so to kiss her, to whisper to her that she's the most wonderful, perfect, beautiful baby on earth. And it isn't icky at all.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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