I have fallen in love — again — with a little girl with whom I have had the privilege of spending the last four months, Eloise Vella Kaplan. When I arrived in August she was just two months old, small, fragile and mostly helpless. Now she is six months old, curious about the world, able to hold her head up, move in circles on her belly, smile in recognition, and kick her legs to indicate “I want to be picked up!”
Eloise was born in June as my first born son, Bart, was. I spend a lot of day time alone with her as I did with Bart, walking the city streets with a baby in a stroller because I didn’t have access to a car when he was little, either. Watching Eloise at this age has brought back memories of Bart and what it was like to see a small life develop. It is a miracle, even for non-believers.
During this time, I have paid more attention to and been involved with small things: how Eloise looks with fascination at a light, how her small hand clutches one of my fingers, how she kicks her feet when she sees me warming up her bottle, her puzzlement when water flows out of a faucet. Everything is new and of interest. Spiritual leaders tells us that paying attention and being present are crucial for a deeper faith life. Little people do this automatically and can be good models for us.
Eloise teaches me to wonder at falling leaves in the hazy late afternoon light; her smile of recognition brings me joy; she sits in quiet patience as her brothers cry in frustration and adults look grim; she is happy with keys to chew on and a stuffed monkey to hold.
Last Thursday I took about five minutes to settle Eloise down with some toys. During that time brother Gus managed to scoop coffee beans out of the cannister, leave a trail of them in two rooms as he poured the remaining ones in my coffee cup, so I would “have some more coffee to drink.” He dumped out two baskets of gloves and hats looking for a nerf gun, jumped from the top of the sofa to a spot behind it, yelling for me to try and find him. Eloise looked placidly on. They are both precious, but at this point I appreciate her limited mobility.
After a few minutes of exploration, she has learned to drop an object. I pick it up and hand it to her again. After the third round of this, Gus tells me, “She doesn’t want it, Gaba.” Sometimes the obvious eludes me.
At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of another child. The theme of birth, gifts, new life are intertwined. Children are a gift. They give us hope, a belief that a fresh presence will bring something better, that renewal is possible. Even if it doesn’t always work out in a positive way, isn’t that what we all want?
Eloise, you are a gift– to this family and to the world.
This is the end of this blog. God willing, one week from today I will be back in Monterey, leaving St. Louis with mixed feelings. I am grateful for the time I was able to spend here, the people I have come to know, and for Grant and Emily who shared their family so generously. Happy Advent. Merry Christmas.