Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Going Price of Mockingbirds

My Sweet Husband is a pushover for babes. Last night, surrounded by sticky nephews and golf jokes and a sweating glass carafe of water, I watched him pull A Move.

Single girls know this move. It's the faux-casual motion of a guy trying to sneak a glance, arms out, in sudden need of a stretch, maybe; or standing up restlessly, casting eyes around the room a couple of times in a sweeping motion that encompasses the person of interest.

I watched with wry amusement as my husband performed this ritual, and no jealousy pulsed in my veins, no shock. Because he's not a pushover for co-eds in tight sweaters: he's a pushover for fingers a half an inch long, curled around a thumb; a fuzz of hair spreading over a brand-new scalp; kitten-sized tongues poking from a mouth just learning to smile.

Last night, in the restaurant, there was mindblowingly cute newborn baby.

My sister-in-law pointed this out, cocking her head for a view around a partition. Sweet husband perked up his ears and made His Move, casually wandering around Nana, glancing with little interest at Friday night diners, turned in a circle at the edge of the partition, and, as soon as tiny infant was out of view again, rushed back to our table mouthing "OH. MY. GOSH!" with wide eyes more associated with "I just saw Harrison Ford ordering red velvet pancake hush puppies!" or "I just saw Liam Neeson dribble some iced tea" or "I just saw" any one of a number of celebrities.

The point is, he loves tiny humans. And as treacherous as days with a toddler prove to be, it is a joy to watch Sweet Husband parent. Before we married, I remember thinking, "it would be okay to have a son if he was going to grow up to be like this man."

This past week friend (and writer) Jenna-Clare Allen pointed out the ups and downs of parenting:
Parenting is such a hard job. Sometimes it feels like it is all work and discipline, discipline and work. I am so profoundly thankful for peaceful days with my buddy--days where he reminds me of how much I like him and enjoy him as a person--these kinds of days sustain me when we go through the rougher weeks and months of parenting. For the past couple of hours, we sat together on the couch staring out at the falling snow. He sat in my lap, with his arms around my neck, playing with my hair and told me all about life on planet earth as William sees it. He talked and talked. What a fascinating, weird, beautiful soul he has. So thankful for this time to breathe and enjoy each other. Thanks, Wilbo Waggins--I really needed that.
One of the sweetest songs known universally begins,
"Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird 

And if that mockingbird don't sing,

Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turn brass,
Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa's gonna buy you a billy goat.

And if that billy goat don't pull,
Papa's gonna buy you a cart and bull.

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa's gonna buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won't bark.
Papa's gonna to buy you and horse and cart.

And if that horse and cart fall down,
Well you'll still be the sweetest little baby in town."

Parents hum this as the deep impulse to Make Everything Okay wraps our arms around a crying baby or wipes tears from pudgy cheeks. No matter what the economy is like, we want to have just enough in a bank account for the going price of a mockingbird. The bittersweet pill, of course, is that parents can't always make it alright. We try to hide this from our children for a while, or reveal it to them in stages - Lindsay's parents can't take away her lymphoma, some kids don't have enough to eat. We pull back the curtain gradually, knowing that this knowledge will help make our children compassionate and tender, but oh, how we wish we could buy the world a mockingbird and make it all alright.

Sometimes, like Jenna-Clare wrote, our children surprise us at just the right moment with a mockingbird of their own. Sometimes a loving spouse brings a mockingbird along right when we need it most.

Sometimes, I pray the world would sit on a couch, watching snow fall, saying "wow - we've had a rough day, haven't we? Let's just sit still for a while and enjoy each other's company."

Even so, O Lord, come quickly.
And til then, send us flocks of mockingbirds.

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