Monday, January 16, 2012

Mothers and Babies and Cousins

Since this blog is titled Writing Life Stories, I'll share one with you tonight.

 One of my favorite relatives was my adult cousin Vivian.  I can see her now -- always smiling and telling humorus stories. When she and her mother came up from Florida to visit our family on the farm, my brothers begged them to sing. The mother and daughter sang in perfect harmony old songs and some of the popular songs of the day.

Vivian's mother, Annie, played guitar, her eyes twinklng when she taught us funny songs like the one about the man served tough meat - "He sawed and he sawed, and he couldn't make a mark, He sawed and he sawed and he couldn't make a mark."  We sang for days after our aunt and cousin drove away.

I was about seven years old when Vivian and Aunt Annie came and brought Vivian's new baby girl, Pamela. I could hardly wait to hold her. As soon as Vivian stepped out of her automobile holding the blanket-swaddled infant, I began pleading.
"Can I hold her? Will you let me hold her?"
I had been waiting, not too patiently, since Mother told me the baby was coming to our house. Now I expected my cousin to hand over her precious child to me.

Vivian, a new mother, spoke to me in a firm voice. "No. You can't hold her yet. You're too little." She turned to walk into the house. "You might drop her."
She had no idea how disappointed I was to hear those words. I already loved the baby even though I'd not met her. I could see her tiny fingers curled like pink shells and I wanted to feel them in my hands. Her hair, fine and more delicate than the hair on one of my baby dolls, intrigued my child's desire to run my grubby fingers through it.

But Vivian said no touching. I'm sure I'd have been as protective of my first baby, so I can't blame my cousin. Finally Mother held the new baby, and she let me sit in the chair with her so I could be close to little Pamela. I remember breathing in the  smell of  baby powder and baby lotion - seems it has always been the fragrance connected to little babies.
"See her smile, Honey? She likes you," Mother said, knowing how badly I wanted to hold the bundle of blanket and child, and she didn't brush my hand away when I reached out to timidly touch Pamela's soft arm.
Why do we remember things like this from so many, many years ago? The small child still abides inside me, and I feel those same strong urges to touch and hold that baby. Being denied by my dear cousin, hurt me at the time, but as I grew older, of course, I realized the maternal feelings of a new mother, the fear for her baby, and the possessiveness new mothers have when first holding court with their infant.

My mother, who birthed seven children, knew the ways of a new mother, but she also knew her child had been as anxious to see the new baby as she was to see what Santa left under the tree.
 She made the experience work for both the new mother and for me. Was it a mother's intuition or simply the wisdom and maturity that comes with age?

I'll have dinner with that baby, now a lovely woman, this week. I look forward to giving her a big hug and her mother and mine will be with us in spirit.

The words mother and cousin are words that provoke certain feelings. What do those words bring to mind for you?

1 comment:

DJan said...

Beautiful little story, I could almost feel and smell that little one, and I felt sad for you not to be able to touch her. And now you can, she's all grown up.

The word mother brings my own mother to me in spirit, and I have many cousins living that I don't visit. So the word cousin makes me think of distance.