Still bleary-eyed after a late night four-hour flight to visit my daughter Whitney and her new husband in southern California, I sipped the green smoothie Whitney’d just whipped up in what she called the Vitamix. Must get one of those thingamajigs, I'm thinking, when the newlyweds joined me on the patio.
“Mom, we have a little gift for you,” said Whitney. They stood in front of me, two in-love puppies wagging their tails, immensely proud of the newspaper they placed in my lap. Only it was a lavender gift bag.
“O-k-a-a-a-y,” I said, pulling a copy of Goodnight Moon from the bag. Sensing that this was one of those moments, I said nothing and starting flipping through the pages — as if I hadn't read this book hundreds of times already. And, as with all life's moments, I got a little stupid. Reeling, my mind searched for meaning: They're presenting me this book to mark my transition to full-time writing because they mistakenly think I want to write children's books. Or this particular book holds a wonderful special memory for Whitney about her wonderful childhood that she is about to divulge.
Like I said – stupid. But maybe it was really denial, or else, delaying the inevitable.
“Read the inscription!” Whitney finally ordered.
Turning back to the flyleaf, I did just that.
- “Mom, Here is a book you can read to your 3rd grandchild! Much love, Whitney & Jason
They're grinning. Stunned, I offer congratulations.
I’m surprised because, though I expected children from this lovely union, I didn't expect them just yet. When dad is out of seminary and employed, when finances are more secure, when they're settled in a house rather than in a third floor one-bedroom apartment, sure.
But we don't always get to choose. And I know that all will be well. These two will make great parents; they have much to give. The first and best gift to their child will be the deep and abiding love they have for each other, and for our Creator.
Yes, all shall be well. Thinking back on the early years of my own marriage, I recall some of our happiest moments were spent rolling coins in order to buy bread and milk. Without ever worrying about tomorrow, we trusted, as children do, that all would be provided. And it was. Always. More than enough.
By the time I got back to Georgia, I was truly excited about the new little one. I penned the parents-to-be a quick note:
Dear Whitney & Jason,
Your life is about to change forever. You will soon experience a love you cannot even begin to imagine. Prepare to be surprised when you instantly and deeply fall in love with this new life. You won't believe now how impossible it'll soon become to recall life without her. If it seems that she's always been with you, it's because she has.
Parenting won't always be easy, and you'll make mistakes despite your greatest efforts. But go easy on yourselves. All we have to do is our best. And our best will be less on some days than on others. As parents you'll go through some anguish, because love and anguish go hand in hand. It has been said that parents are only as happy as their saddest child. I think this is true. You hurt when your children hurt. You cry when they cry. Even after they're grown.
But you also get to share the happy moments, of which there will be plenty. Thank you for sharing this moment with me in the special way you did. Can’t wait to read Goodnight Moon to Widget!
Editor's Note: Candyce Deal is a freelance writer in north Georgia and has written for national consumer and trade magazines including Working Mother, 1,001 Home Ideas, Mothers Today, Baby Talk, Home Life, Living With Preschoolers, Marriage & Family, Marriage Partnership, Vibrant Life, and others. She's contributed curriculum and teaching ideas to Lifeway, The Education Center, Mailbox Magazine, Early Years, Momentum: Journal of the National Catholic Education Association, and Good Apple. She's also presented thematic teaching units at conferences and served on a statewide effort to improve understanding and implementation of the NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics.