All of our children are named for people my husband and I have dearly loved, or still dearly love. It is, in our eyes, one of our gifts to them, that they will carry the names of men and women who were all heroic in their own ways. One of them was a bona fide war hero, and had the military decorations to prove it, but I did not know that until he died. Each of them were heroes to us for their steadfast adherence to everyday virtues — faithfulness to the Lord and family, determination, thrift, ingenuity, creativity, kindness. There will be no monuments except ordinary tombstones built for any of them, but they were (or remain) the kinds of people that we would hold up as examples to our children.
Baby Guy is named for my husband’s uncle, who left us not long before Beanie was born. He was a brilliant and faithful man, born in Italy, and one of the people I will always regret not having been able to know better. My husband’s aunt, this remarkable man’s widow, came down here to celebrate her little brother’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. We absolutely adore her, and she loves us and our little tribe right back. On the days when nothing seems to be right, I call Zizi, and she regales me with family tales, including a healthy dose of my father-in-law’s history. There is nothing in this world that she does not know how to cook, and she always has a genuine compliment to offer about each of the kids, my husband, and me. Her loving heart both honors and humbles me.
There are moments that are seared into my memory with a fierce and soaring joy. One of them is the day we found out Baby Guy was, in fact, Baby Guy and not Baby Girl. We had decided that, if this little blessing was a boy, that we would name him for this delightful lady’s late husband; upon my return from that happy visit with my favorite ultrasonographer, I called her to ask her permission. Zizi readily gave her consent, then promptly hung up on me (no offense taken — it was the sort of hanging-up that comes from simply being unable to speak). When she called back a couple of hours later, apologizing for hanging up, we had a good laugh. Her two oldest children are Baby Guy’s godparents; it just seemed fitting.
Zizi and Baby Guy’s godparents, along with my husband’s other aunt who is Deedaw’s younger sister, all arrived this afternoon to help celebrate a truly awesome occasion. While Zizi loves babies on general principle — they are cute, they snuggle, and every single blessed one of them loves to smile for her — Baby Guy has a special place. I was rocking him in his car seat, trying to get him to take the nap he so desperately needed, when Zizi materialized next to me and asked if she could hold him.
I don’t think I will ever be able to say “no” to her.
All of us had been trying to soothe him for the better part of an hour, and Baby Guy was having none of it. No amount of rocking, singing, milk, or snuggling would calm him. Zizi, however, has almost a vocation for calming tired infants, and for the next half hour, Zizi and Baby Guy sat in the rocker, her singing and humming, him cuddling and smiling. I hated to take him back from her when, finally, his fatigue won out over his adoration and he started to sob again. He actually fell asleep on the floor, sprawled out on his tummy, with his little thumb jammed into his mouth like a cork.
As soon as he awoke and had a little something to eat, he was again the center of the classic party game, “Pass the Baby.” Everyone had a turn at making Baby Guy laugh — he’s a most obliging little chap where that’s concerned — and he eventually made his way back to Zizi. She smiled the whole time he was sitting with her, and in those moments, I could see her as a girl, almost sixty years ago, on her own wedding day. Beautiful then, and beautiful now, and if the joy she finds in her life may be tempered by the pain of too many losses too close together, the love she has for us gives her a radiance that no cosmetic will ever duplicate.
Today’s prayer: Lord, one of the rarest and least merited gifts You have given us is are the members of our family who love us in spite of our innumerable flaws, who somehow manage to see pieces of You in us. Help us teach Your blessings to savor every moment they have with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, before they learn by experience that they will not be with them here on earth forever. And please, Lord, remind us to never miss an opportunity to share our love freely with our family, so that when they return to You, we have no reason to regret the words we did not say or the kindnesses we did not do.