By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 8, 2015
“Would you like to hold him?” I’m sitting at my cousins’ dining room table in Seffner, Florida, when their son asks me this question. He is standing nearby with his newborn infant in his arms.
“Of course,” I say, and he hands me the warm bundle. My breath catches in my throat as I look down at this three-week old baby, who has dark brown wisps of hair. He is fast asleep.
I shift my weight, hoping his neck is fully supported. Out of the recesses of the past I hear my mother warning, “Watch his head!”
The house is filled with folks laughing and talking and eating, but my world has shrunk considerably. It’s just me and this little guy, whose name is Liam.
He scrunches up his face while he sleeps and makes tiny cooing noises. I wonder what he might be dreaming about.
His every breath seems so precious and so amazing. Then suddenly his face reddens and his brow furrows. His body tenses in my arms.
Just as I’m about to alert the parents that something must be terribly wrong, my aunt walks by, glances at him and diagnoses the situation quite accurately.
“He’s pooping,” she says calmly.
Relief washes over me. He’s fine. He’s just doing what babies do. Before long, my arm starts going to sleep. I don’t want to move because he seems quite comfortable. So I just let the muscles go numb and keep staring at him.
I think about Jesus. How small and utterly helpless he must have been. How he was brought into the world by the faith of two people. Mary who said “yes” to God’s mysterious plan, and Joseph who took to heart the message in his dream and married her.
It still takes faith today for people to have children. It’s easy to count all the reasons to say no. The spread of terrorism. The constancy of horrible wars. The suffering of so many innocents around the globe.
Some people say they won’t bring children into such a world. Others have children but intentionally stop after two. Homes get bigger and more elaborate, while families get smaller.
My mother grew up in a family of six children. Everyone shared a bathroom. There were few luxuries, but many celebrations, lovely meals and always a crowd when the family gathered around the table.
Today, middle-class American children often have their own rooms, and garages may be larger than the bedrooms our grandparents slept in. Families have multiples of everything—televisions, cars and computers.
Are things better now?
“Is your arm falling asleep?” a niece asks, breaking my reverie. Maybe it’s just as well because my mother’s voice in my head is reminding me that I neglected to have even one child—so maybe I shouldn’t be putting in my two cents.
“It’s fine,” I answer, stretching the truth considerably.
The tingling in my arm is worth it, though, because the baby is still cooing. When will I get this chance again? Next time I see him, he could be a year old. He won’t recall me holding him, but I’ll always remember these moments.
This newborn child evokes the untold sacrifices Mary and Joseph made to keep their baby safe. He’s a reminder that no matter how bad the world may seem, a baby always signifies hope.
A newborn is like a sprig of green pushing through the sidewalk in a noisy, busy city. A sign that love will survive whatever darkness may come. A stirring example of God’s words, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Artwork is by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s latest humorous mystery is “Death Dons a Mask.” The Murrays attend St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.