Starting Point
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Issue Date:  December 10, 2004

Starting Point


In Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe her main character wanders into a storefront church called “Church of the Second Chance.” That’s how I feel about being a grandmother.

We love it when she spends the night. It gives a break to her young parents and there is nothing like waking with a happy baby in the room. We get our coffee and her milk and cuddle in bed.

I remember life with my babies, but sometimes I can’t get them to come into focus. The other day my youngest son, the proud uncle and godfather, remarked, “You’re a better grandmother than you were a mother.” He was teasing, but it was a zinger straight for the heart.

Because it’s true. I was always multi-tasking: efficiently getting projects done while occupying -- not attending -- the babies.

Now I know how fast this time goes, how much fun it is to watch a baby learn to walk and talk. Her newest trick is to pick up anything she can hold in one hand -- her bottle, my shoe, a banana -- and stumble around talking into it like a cell phone.

We were going to go out and cut down our Christmas tree today, but didn’t get around to it. There was a time when a change of plans would have ruined my day. Instead we baked cookies and sat close to the fire reading her favorite books. She’s heavily into end rhyme.

A baby’s time is now. Now. They don’t know about later. They are present-moment creatures and that is where we meet God. While we live in time that includes waiting for the doctor and retirement and for the rain to stop, God lives in eternity without time and the only meeting place is now. So living with a baby is to be connected to the divine.

But living with a baby is also to be connected to our humanity. I look at the delicate back of her neck and wonder how any of us survive past infancy.

Divine fragility -- a lovely combination in a little girl -- in all of us -- claimed as holy by the Child for whom we wait.

Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.

National Catholic Reporter, December 10, 2004

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