I met and held the teeniest, tiniest, most perfect baby today. She was so impossibly light, both in luminescence and weight that it was hard to believe I was holding a real live person; she is so small. As a Mom of college kids, it’s easy to forget. My two babies were small once, just under and just over eight pounds at birth, but much of those early days is kind of a blur to me now. I do remember the moment they showed me my son for the first time as I thought, “Oh, it was you the whole time.” And I remember how suddenly huge he seemed on the day we brought his tiny sister home from the hospital, twenty-six months later. Just over two years worth of ordinary days had tumbled together and produced what to our minds seemed suddenly like a very big boy. He was no longer small, literally overnight.
As my mother used to say about the raising of small children, the days are long and the years are fast. It’s true. Those early days were filled with nothing but small moments: lullabyes, diapers, and naps, then stacks of books, after-dinner dance parties, forts made out of blankets and couch cushions. Nothing ground-breaking, nothing that doesn’t happen in homes all over the world every single day. And yet, they aren’t small, these moments, are they? When you put all those moments together, what you make in the end is a family.
And though a family unit may appear small to the outside world, it’s really not. Our family has interacted with hundreds of other families over the years, in classrooms and on sports fields, in church, and well past the borders of our town. There is something of each of the other three in any one member of our family. This imprint is inescapable, for better or worse. Our shared experiences, time, joy, heartache, and memories are a kind of crucible in which we’ve forged something bigger than ourselves as we’ve grown through the years. In many ways, we belong to each other and we always will. Wherever any one of the four of us go, they will bring the other three along in ways we can’t yet imagine and might never fully understand.
My college freshman daughter was home on spring break and sitting next to me on the couch when a song popped up on my spotify playlist. It was the Appalachian Spring Suite, by Aaron Copland, music we imagined and “choreographed” into a daily after-dinner routine for several months when my kids were small. As the music starts, we pretended to be trees coming back to life after the cold winter, then cowboys feeding animals, then fish running in a river, then the river itself. Much of the game involved running, galloping, and “swimming” over and over around the circle floor plan of our small home. At the end of this piece of music, we sat around a pretend campfire in our dining room and waited for the first stars to appear. It was magic, some of my most treasured memories. My daughter was one and then two years old when we played that game, but as I looked over at her on the couch, nineteen now and all grown up, there were tears brimming in her eyes. She remembered. It wasn’t small, none of it, and it never was.
Day by day, for better or worse, individual people become a family and every day you figure that out exactly what that means, the weight and breadth of it. It’s not small and it never was, not even at the very start, though that’s a fact easier seen in the rear-view mirror.
The baby I held today is precious, tiny, and yet large with possibility. In Aramaic, her name comes from a word that means elevated, great, and magnificent. In German, the same name means ‘little girl’. In French, it’s the tiniest and most exquisite dessert.
She’s incredibly big and impossibly small all at once. Like this very moment, your family, the home where you’re building your life, this day you are given, and you.
There is so much more than we can see.
Welcome to the world, Madeleine Grace