A week ago I became a grandmother. I admit I didn't know what to expect - the idea of my children having children is still a strange one to me - but as with most births, none of my expectations or ideas mattered anyway. Once a baby is placed fresh in your arms all you think of is love and how you're going to do absolutely everything right for them starting this very now.
A couple of friends - both mamas whose faith traditions believe in the welcoming of all children - said to me after: babies keep us from sinking into cynicism, they hold you in the center. I caught a glimmer then, a glance at something I hadn't suspected before about life and the ways we yield to it - or exclude it. Jacob came straight onto a planet brittle with hate and fear, and yet, full of this world as I am, when I see him all I can do is think, "there's hope, there's hope." I'm sure that if the world had been left to me, I would have stopped this madness long ago, cried "Enough!" to all the pain and poverty, narrowness and brutality, wiped the slate clean. But no, here in my arms lies another possibility, fashioned by God, entrusted to us to see what we might all do together this time.
Perhaps it sounds ridiculous. I've noticed there's nothing quite so ridiculous as a grandmother these days - we are silly, doting, unaware, and outside the (so-called) sophistication of the "real" world. I'm fine with that. God always has entrusted his secrets to fools and babes. On the same hospital floor where Jacob was born there are two dozen rooms, all of them with mothers and babies and a fistful of fools with their faces puffy with exhaustion and lit up with glory. Every single day God is pushing his way into this harrowed world and putting himself at the mercy of the bewildered and delighted.
These last months, my son and I had talked frequently about his own birth, about his bio mom, of the drugs and alcohol, the dysfunction that led to his adoption. The questions only seemed harsher, the answers more cutting, the closer we got to his son's arrival. "She was young," I would say, "so confused..." The ache in him was visible, untouchable. Unspoken were the fears he harbored, the doubts about himself. Was he a good father? Or was he doomed to failure? A couple days after Jacob was born - healthy, perfect, to two parents who love him and take wonderful care of him - I texted my son: Do you see what has happened here? How you've ended the cycle? Everything is new. Everything is possible. You changed the story, and I'm so very, very proud of you. "Thanks, mama," he texted back to me in the middle of the night.
Hope, the poet says, is the thing with feathers on it. I like to think of it like that, a flutter of joy, a bright rising. But often, hope is a slow unfurling, something curled and hidden deep within us, a gradual, tender opening to life. When we finally take hold of it, it always surprises, for little did we know that under all the question and the doubt, all the fear and shame there was growing something so unexpected, so extraordinary, so utterly joyful and undeserved. We hold it in our hands like a miracle, fumble about finding words to carry it, become ridiculous, silly, doting in our wonder. Fools, all.