May I hold your baby for a little while?

Last Saturday night at church, I played piano for the First Communion Mass. It’s a big deal. The little kids, mostly Hispanic at Sacred Heart, dress up in white, sit up front with their padres and padrinos and become big kids in the church, finally allowed to consume the bread and wine.

They brought their whole families, which included lots of crying babies. I became fascinated with this little guy sitting near the front. His mother and grandfather kept trading off, trying to calm his cries and squirms. I found myself aching to hold him, to hold any of the babies. Even if they were crying and drooling.

I rarely get to hold babies. The last time was at Thanksgiving when I cuddled my niece’s six-month-old daughter for a while. So sweet. I loved talking to her, watching her smile at me, letting her wrap her tiny fingers around my big fingers. Now she’s a year old. I missed the birthday party because I was up here in Oregon playing the piano so other people’s kids could have First Communion. I’ll never get to dress a little girl in white, teach her the Our Father and Hail Mary and take lots of photos to treasure forever. You’d think I’d be over it by now. Nope. My friends, this is a hunger that will keep coming back.

Let’s be honest. At my age, I’m not anxious to deal with dirty diapers or sleepless nights. I just want to hold a baby. The child doesn’t have to be mine, just one I could see often enough so that she or he knows who I am and feels comfortable in my arms. Like a grandma.

This sounds whiny. People not in my situation would suggest I find a way to spend more time with the little ones in the family, maybe even move back to California. It would be easier if I had a bigger family that I saw more often, with a bunch of siblings and their offspring who would come running to Aunt Sue. I think about that a lot, but I have a full life that I enjoy right here in South Beach.

I could volunteer to do babysitting or daycare or some other activity that puts me in close contact with little kids. But somehow it feels too late. I was so busy avoiding babies in my reproductive years when I was trying accept that I would never have one that I never learned the mothering skills that seem so natural to other women.

Of course babies don’t stay babies. A friend who just came back from her grandson’s birthday party complained that the kid paid no attention to her, was glued to his cell phone the whole time. I’d probably snatch the phone away, and then he’d hate me. At least we don’t have to deal with that.

What do you think? Is there a substitute that really fills the void for those of us who are childless? Do you get the baby hunger, too? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

***

Things continue to be challenging in my family. My father, still in the nursing home at the moment, has another infection. He sounded awful last night on the phone. I don’t know what’s going to happen. My dog Annie is having surgery on Friday for a tumor the vet doesn’t like the looks of. I have also been dealing with expensive repairs to my car, pellet stove, and washing machine. The toilet doesn’t flush right, and the garbage disposal doesn’t even hum. I don’t want to be alone with all this. A friend taught me a new saying this week from the Spanish. “It’s raining on wet.” Lluve sobre mojado. Pretty much. One day at a time, we’ll figure it out.

Meanwhile, here’s a song about raining on wet.

 

Advertisements

Mother’s Day: Another Stab to the Heart

I thought I could deal with Mother’s Day by now. I mean, I’m 13 years past menopause. It will get easier, I tell my young readers here. Most of the time, it is easier, but not always.

As you may know, I play the piano and lead the choirs at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newport, Oregon. I share the job with another woman who never had children. For her, it was a conscious choice. I wonder if our not having children gave us both a better chance to pursue our music. Probably.

My friend was scheduled for the Sunday Mass, which got me off the hook for the actual Mother’s Day, but I played the Saturday vigil Mass. It also happened to be First Communion. The church was packed with boys and girls beautifully dressed in white, along with their parents, godparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s a big deal and an honor to be part of it. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. If only it weren’t Mother’s Day weekend, too.

No problem, I thought. Even when a friend wished me Happy Mother’s Day at the Sign of Peace then started to correct herself as I hastily wished her a Happy Mother’s Day and hurried back to the piano, I was okay. In fact, I was proud of how I had evolved.

But wait.

We have this relatively new and uber-conservative pastor. We got our previous pastor enlightened to the point that on Mother’s Day he honored all women for their nurturing, caring, etc. It was nice. I didn’t feel excluded. But this priest went old school. He asked everyone to sit. Then he asked the mothers to stand. All the women around me rose. There I was, right in front, sitting as the priest stared at me, no doubt thinking I was a big sinner for not having children. He knows nothing about me, has no idea how painful it was as he blessed the mothers. Like a knife, I swear.

It could have been worse. Nobody handed out flowers. Many a year I have played with a misguided carnation on the music stand. But it hurt.

Normally on my Sundays off, I would join friends at another Catholic church and go to brunch with them afterward. Not this week. I couldn’t go through another mother blessing. As for eating out on Mother’s Day, I’m not suicidal. Restaurants would be jammed with mothers and their loving offspring. Everyone would be wishing me happy Mother’s Day. I’d rather eat dog food. I stayed home, washed clothes, did yard work, read, walked the dog and baked cookies—for me!

It’s safe here at the end of the road in the forest. The three houses clustered together are all occupied by people in their 60s and 70s who never had children, just dogs, cats, and a parrot.

So that was my Mother’s Day. Several of you have commented on my last post. How was your weekend? Let us know.

***

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Sally Carr, who died surrounded by friends because she had no family. It turns out some of the facts I reported were wrong. She did have some family, cousins in Philadelphia who were shocked when the State of Oregon contacted them about Sally’s estate. Sally’s parents did not die in a car accident when she was young. They lived to old age, but she chose to separate herself from them. I doubt we’ll ever know why, but this makes the story even sadder. I regret publishing what wasn’t quite true and hope those who knew Sally better than I did will forgive me.

Keep the comments coming and feel free to correct me when I get it wrong.