Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kate Miller 48: At Last

This is my last Kate Miller episode (at least of this sort), finishing the story of Teddy's coming to be with us. Thanks for reading and for all your encouragement!

48. At Last (Sept, 2013)

Kate and Teddy had been home for two weeks, and Kate was recovering well. The weather outside was gloriously Septemberish: sunshine and cool breezes, autumn colors and falling leaves. Kate felt like she had been set free! Her ancient body was gradually returning to the mid-twenties, she was getting stronger and had every incentive to go walking or just to sit outside. And her new baby could she describe her new baby? "Sweet" was too prosaic; "perfect" too plainly impossible. "A joy", maybe? "A wonder"? 

She sat in her nursing chair and looked down at his tiny face and hands and body, sleeping so peacefully on her lap. Everything was there: the eyes, nose, mouth...every detail down to the intricate bumps and curves of the ears. And yet everything was so tiny! It was astounding. That such a thing could even exist and live and breath was truly a wonder! 

...And a joy. But that was the inexplicable part. He cried when he was hungry. He slept most of the time. He needed his diapers changed, and his clothes changes, and his body washed. And he was unable to do anything. (Some people say that baby's are born knowing how to suckle, but Kate found right off the bat that this was misinformation. Perhaps it happens sometimes... but not always. When Teddy was born, he had literally everything to learn.) And yet, he was a joy. 

Kate studied his face for the thousandth time. She had already spent hours pouring over the curves and lines of his cheeks and forehead, mentally memorizing their delicate shapes. It was like a compulsion. She couldn't stop herself from doing it. Just the fact of his being was so wondrous, she couldn't help but stare. This was the joy. This was love. It was a startling realization at first. She had always being able to say she loved this or that about a person. But for Teddy...there wasn't anything to love but his being. She loved him

She had heard so many people say, "Being a parent will give you so many new insights into God's relationship with his children..." And she had already found this to be true. This was a different kind of love. A love that came before there was reason, but simply and just because it delighted in loving. Each day, Kate studied Teddy's face and form and waves of understanding and humbling knowledge would wash over her. This is what our God became, she thought one day. He gave up the glory of Heaven. The power, the authority, the praise and worship of the Heavenly become this: a baby. To learn how to eat and to walk. To cry for his food and to sit helpless as Mary changed his dirty rags. Kate almost flushed with shame--the God of the universe, in such a humbled state. His whole life was sacrifice from the first day to the last; he humbled himself more than Kate could even fathom. Surely, she thought, there is nothing that He would not do for His children. 

Next to her chair, Kate had several books to read while she was nursing. (Those first few weeks, he ate for fourty-five minutes, and Kate was able to read many books during that time.) One of the books was an Anthology of American Poetry, and sometimes she like to read the poems aloud to Teddy. Her favorites were from Robert Frost, especially Birches and Two Tramps in Mud Time. In the latter, the poet is out in a cabin on his own, chopping wood, and is approached by two men wishing to do the job for pay. But he declines and ponders on the joy of doing something both necessary and pleasurable. 

When Kate discovered the poem, she read it through three times in a row. Silently twice, and then aloud. And then she repeated the last lines again and again, feeling the full weight of their meaning in her own situation. "Only where love and need are one, / And the work is play for mortal stakes, / Is the deed ever really done / For heaven and the future's sakes." This was truth. She was now Kate Miller, Mother. The love and the need were one and the same. Her new job was playing for mortal stakes. O for the glory of Heaven, and for the hope of the future. May God have mercy on me and guide us safely home, she breathed. 

She picked up her son, and "With the same pains you use to fill a cup / Up to the brim, and even above the brim", she laid him, still sleeping, in his cradle.