There is something magical about the presence of a baby that commands the best of cherished family members and strangers alike. A newborn’s bright eyes pierce through the cold, rigid scales of skepticism to awaken the inner believer. They remind us that joy can always be found within, if only we remember to get out of our own way from time to time.
There was an elderly woman in the snack aisle beside us at Wegmans. Her smooth toasted chestnut skin rippled across her forehead with deep wisdom as she considered the big bag of Doritos or the huge bag of Doritos. She turned to notice Ari’s tiny foot dangling out of the side of the ErgoBaby carrier on my wife’s chest, inches away from her hand as she decidedly reached for the big bag. Almost automatically, she cooed and smiled. I felt my pupils dilate as they took in the beauty of a sunset meeting a sunrise. She took notice of Sage resting peacefully on my chest seconds later.
“I’m a twin, too. But…my brother died during birth. I’ll be 74 this year.”
Her shoulders sank as the bag of Doritos filled with the weight of nearly eight decades worth of longing. Yet it also seemed that if she would have dropped the bag she’d have gone wildly flying; bouncing back and forth off of pretzels, Pringles, and popcorn until finally sputtering to a lifeless stop on the hard surface of the tile like a limp balloon with all of its air let out.
The five of us stood in the ebbing tide of her grief. She took a second glance at our girls. They would perhaps never know the dull sensation of waiting for the company of someone you love deeply, but can’t quite recall. Might never feel the serrated edge of torment drag across their heartstrings when uncovering the box of duplicate baby clothes their parents tucked away in the back corner of a closet because they just couldn’t bring themselves to part ways with it.
They were here: healthy and alive. They had each other to share a lifetime of celebrations and secrets. To steal bites of each other’s sandwiches on hazy July afternoons in the backyard. To wash it all down with ice cold gulps of the lemonade they planned to sell for 25 cents a pop in their neighborhood stand. To then pool their earnings together to buy that coloring book they’d been eyeing for weeks in the candy-free check out aisle.
She smiled at us like we were Christmas morning, but I couldn’t help to think she was the gift.