Life Notes: My Sacred Texts
Three pink satin baby books are everything to me
By Sally Friedman

On a recent rainy afternoon, I came upon them – those plump pink satin chronicles of the life and growth of 3 daughters. Back in the day, we simply called them baby books.

Buried under the old report cards and primitive drawings with titles like “My Howse” and “My Grampop,” those books stopped me in my tracks. The histories of Jill, Amy and Nancy’s first years on Planet Earth, penned in longhand by an overwhelmed mother, had enclosed within them a pre-computer rendition of my most important “files” ever. Of course, there were the most basic facts – inoculations, height, weight, age at which first solid food was consumed. And between those pink satin covers also were all the hopes and fears and dreams of the universe.

I lost track of time and place and connection to anything but these wrenchingly intimate histories of my own children. I read and re-read those scribbled notations that actually were my first clues to these incredibly complicated, precious daughters of ours.

“Jill spoke her first word today…It was ‘pocketbook.’ Three whole syllables!” To this day, I have wondered why that word was uttered by our firstborn in her 15th month. But I will never, ever forget our mutual astonishment – Jill’s and mine – that she had, indeed, spoken it.

“Amy looks like Aunt Doris around the eyes,” I had observed somewhere in this middle daughter’s first 6 months. “All the rest of her genes are her daddy’s.” That observation was spot on. To this day, Amy’s eyes, deep, deep chocolate-brown, are like her great aunt’s. But in all else, she is her father’s child, so perfect a female rendition of him.

“Little Nancy is so silent – she seems to be watching and listening all the time,” I had dutifully scribbled on Nancy’s first birthday. And it all came flooding back: the nicknames we had for this last, much-loved baby, the concern that she’d always be out-shouted by the rest of us and the amusing notation, added a year later, that “Silent Yokum” had ceased to be silent.

I managed to keep up my jottings in those pink covered books at least through Jill, Amy and Nancy’s single-digit birthdays. In longhand, then typing, I wrote maternal observations about shy stages, difficult stages and the stages when I felt I was depriving one or the other of her rightful attention. But those baby days were the ones that got me.

No wonder my arms had ached so to hold a baby again after those 3 little hostages to fortune were grown and gone. No wonder I had dropped outrageous hints to our married daughters that there was no time like the present for considering parenthood. The jackpot: 7 delicious grandchildren.

Babies are the blissful fulfillment of life’s longing for itself, the best reason to wake up in the morning, the sweetest excuse for being blissfully foolish. But it all passes in a blink, especially when harried parents can barely pause long enough to finish a sentence, let alone jot down a page or 2 about the miraculous development of babies.

I thank the fates who somehow conspired to let me pause in the mayhem, now and then, and reflect on these baby girls who had forever altered my life. Those daughters, all mothers deeply devoted to their children now, have not transferred data into anything remotely like those baby books of the 1960s. Yes, I urged them to. I think I presented each with a reasonable facsimile of the ones that contain their, for lack of a better word, “data.”

Recapturing the respective babyhoods of our adult daughters made me wistful, of course. It was all over much too soon. But I was also so overwhelmingly grateful for those baby books. They are my own version of sacred texts. And they will stand forever as a reminder of the best work of my life.

Read more Life Notes here

May 2021
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