she’s here: a falling-in-love story
i oughtn’t say a word today: just let you drink her in, gulp after gulp; she’s more than plenty, really.
behold those long, long fingers. check out the little feets. and what of the face so round? and the perfect pink of her complexion? i’m certain she feels like velvet, rare and pricey, the finest bolt there ever was; a creamy smooth you’d not forget.
alas, i’m too far away to let her wrap my finger tight, not just yet anyway. and i ache to kiss those lips. and press her to my heart. so while i wait to flap my wings, and swoop down beside her, i’ll just ramble on a while, tell the story of the girl who came at last.
this is ella’s story, a falling-in-love story. the first of oh-so-many.
* * *
what you need to know, my little love, is i’ve been waiting for you for a very, very long time.
hmm. let’s see. maybe half a century.
and, mind you, i’m that plus two. what i’m thinking, though, is it must have been right around when i was two, maybe before, when i started to wish for a little girl all my own. or even one that i could share.
i was, i am told, a girly-girl from the get-go. i know i carried a purse wherever i went. even into a lake, once. and, always, i clutched a dolly. wrapped her in a blanket, never forgot to feed her from the wee plastic bottle, one with make-believe milk sloshing around inside. dunked her right in the sink, too, whenever she needed it, scrubbed her itsy-bitsy plastic toes.
i was, am, ever will be, a dolly girl.
there are girls who like trucks. and mud. and high-hoppin’ frogs.
and there are dolly girls.
i like mud, all right. and don’t squirm (not too much, anyway) when i pick up a frog. or even a worm.
but give me a baby, put me within yards of a baby, and i, like the mud, get mushy. all oozy-goozy mushy.
i imagine, even though i cannot recall, that growing up i made my babies be the girl kind. all around me, you see, were the boy kinds. one after the other, except for me, my mama kept poppin’ out boys. four in all. your papa is one of them. no. 3 of them, as a matter of fact.
oh, i liked them just fine. climbed trees with them. stayed up late in the night listening to ballgames, there in the dark, curled on the edge of one of their beds, the score and the crowds squawking from the radio.
on occasion, we rescued each other from peas we couldn’t bear to swallow, or tuna casserole. we giggled clear across the country, more than once, stuffed back in the back of the station wagon, bumping all the way. especially across indiana, the state that would never end.
but, oh, how i longed for a girl. ached, even.
at last, when i was 11, and one final time my mama went off to the hospital deep in the night, i lay there holding my breath. i was sure this round my prayer of prayers would be answered, and i’d at last have my very own girl.
i still remember my papa tiptoeing to my bedroom door that early dawn in the winter of 1968. the only one in the house yet awake, i’d been listening for his footsteps, awaiting the good news.
“you have a baby brother,” he told me, beaming, ruffling my hair. i tried hard not to cry, not to let on that, somehow, that wasn’t the something i’d been telling my guardian angel i wanted, the baby sister i swore was due me.
and then i grew up. got told myself, five times, that i was having a baby. once, it was a girl. but she didn’t live to be big enough, and i only held her one time, before we buried her, right atop my papa’s chest in a cemetery where neither one, now, is alone.
i have two boys. and with all my heart i love them. even though, alas and indeed, they’re not girls.
i wasn’t too deterred. bought a dollhouse anyway. collected tea sets. rolled out cookie dough. taught them all the things that make for tender hearts.
but i’ve not had a girl to dress in ruffly underpants. not had a girl to shower in dollies. nor even to plan elaborate teas. (don’t know if anyone’s tried, but a teaparty with boys is mostly about spilling the tea, and gobbling teeny cakes fast as you can, and then, poof, it’s over, and you’re left alone to sop up the mess.)
and, so, when months ago, word came that this blessed child (yup, that would be you) was–at long last–a she who was on her way, well, i was beside myself, tickled pink as pink could be.
so many picture frames clicked in my head: the hand i would hold as we walked through an orchard, the pies we might bake, the frilly skirts i would buy. and the overalls. the baby dolls i’d wrap and send you for christmas–or just because it was, oh, a monday.
utter truth be told, and of course i swear i know this: in a million different ways, it makes no difference that you are a she. not really, anyway. not at all.
you see, long, long ago, your papa and i made a promise, launched a kite of a dream: we would be for each other’s children, every thing we could ever imagine–and then some. we’d hoped to raise you all side-by-side, in a yard with trees without end.
life, though, rewrote passages of that plot.
my babies came first, by years and years.
but, boy oh boy, your papa’s kept up his end of the promise. quite beyond description: he’s built hot-air balloons with my firstborn, trekked to his second-grade classroom to help sculpt a flock of larger-than-life monarch butterflies, baked a saturn cake with spun-sugar rings and sparklers. he’s taught him of plato, and how to ride the “el” all around town.
my littler one, he’s adorned with, among other marvels, a papier-mache elephant head named omar (sculpted out of old clothes, believe it or not). your papa and my little one used to scoot side-by-side, for many blocks, to dine on hot dogs and green river sodas, plopping in the grass when they couldn’t scoot any longer, to watch the clouds change shapes. and your mama one summer spent every wednesday teaching my little one most important things, like how to roll up in aluminum foil, or build cities out of purple-heart scraps from your papa’s woodshop.
when they moved off to maine, your papa and mama, they left behind a glass prism to hang in my little one’s window, so every morning, still, he awakes to rainbows, scattered like thistle seeds, on every wall of his bedroom.
i tell you truly, in the end, girl or boy, it didn’t really matter.
but, well, for a girl who’d always dreamed in shades of pink, this girl news was something to behold. after all these years. i was more than swooning as we counted down the days.
the call came just the other afternoon.
your mama cried when she left the message. her voice cracked as she reported the news, “things are progressing along. and we’re very excited.”
from that moment on, i was suspended. moving through space here, but wholly transported to there. i shopped at the grocery store, but couldn’t tell you what i bought. instead, in my head, i was far off in maine, at your mama’s and papa’s side, putting cool cloths to her brow, holding hands, waiting.
i couldn’t go to bed that night, knowing you were all, at last, at the hospital; knowing you might or might not be coming before the morning. last i’d heard, all had stopped, and you might have paused for a last-minute nap. i knelt down beside my bed, stayed there for a long, long while.
and then, at last, at 1:34 in the morning, the phone rang, woke me from a dream. it was my mama. “she’s here,” she reported, at which, of course, i started to cry.
shaking, and bumping into walls in the dark, i ran down the stairs, dialing.
your papa answered, wrapped me in the story of how you arrived. told me that, at last, when your dark, dark eyes locked in a gaze with his, he was thunderstruck. lost in deep unending love, the kind that hits you with a thud.
and then, yesterday afternoon, i heard what i’d been waiting for, for months and months and 50 years: the undulating coos coming from your lungs and lips, the sound of your most holy gurgles.
i wept, no surprise. keep weeping at the fact that at long last we’ve got our girl. my girl, i try hard not to say. for you are not mine, but ours, no matter how fierce and deep i love you already.
i imagine a lifetime with my b’ella ella. i intend to be the auntie babs of any girl’s dreams. i’ve already written you once, on the day you were born, told you to call anytime. i am ready and listening. standing at attention.
i know already that you’re blessed beyond words with the mama and the papa in whose arms you’ve just landed.
but should i have any little bit to add to your growing up, your becoming, i promise you this: i will be for you what i’ve tried to be for my very own, a source of love unending. a pair of ears, deeply listening. i will take you by the hand, teach you of the garden and the birds and the bumblebees, things your papa and your grandma surely will teach you too.
i will roll out cookie dough by your side, stand you on the stepping stool, let you lick the spoon. teach you the art of the doily, something your great grandma lucille would have wanted you to know. i will read you storybooks. maybe even write you one. i will fly you on a plane, bring you here for days on end. i will tuck you in at night, whisper love songs in your ear. spoil you silly.
we will bite into strawberries at breakfast. go out for lunch. take picnics to the beach. i will kiss your toes. and run the brush through your maybe-curly hair, beautiful like your mother’s.
i will grow old with you. and you will always know that you’re my girl.
the one i waited for, forever.
and now that you’re here, at last, i’m not letting go. not ever. not a chance.
elena benham mahany was born at 1:25, eastern standard time, on the 14th day of april, 2009, in mercy hospital in portland, maine. she is tuesday’s child, full of grace.
her mama–becca, who i love so much–is over-the-moon, and radiant. and so’s her papa, too.
my brother david–furniture maker, master gardener, latin scholar–now adds father to his many gifts.
i am hoping he’ll pen below a few fine words. he writes like no one else.
please welcome her–miss EBM–with words of wisdom, prayers of grace. i rambled on too, too much, but i am spilling over on this perfect april day.
and happy birthday, too, to the mama of the man i love, ginny dearest, who i love so much.
congratulations, auntie babs!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 – 04:25 PM
We, at the table, are looking forward to hearing the tales of Elena ~ write on Auntie BAM…and Congratulations to the Mama and Papa and Grandparents and Uncles and Cousins! Family is a wonderful thing.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 – 06:43 PM
Nurse Sarah 🙂
You’ve never ever met me….my name is Sarah and I cared for Becca, David, and sweet Elena and witnessed the miracle of her birth. David just gave me this website and your beautiful words left me wishing I would be baking cookies right along with you two. You are a wonderful writer and I know that Elena will live a blessed life because of you. Enjoy her, eat her up, I know I sure have.
Sarah Palleschi, RN
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 – 09:16 PM
ohhhhhh my lord! i am now sitting here weeping at the circle of it all. i used to be a nurse, and all i’ve heard in the last two days is about the amazing amazing sarah the nurse, and the other nurses, too. you’ve made me want to get back to being a nurse, but dang, my license went kerpluey. sounds to me like the nurses of maine are of the sublimely heavenly sort. i saw a beautiful picture of you, holding her.
were you there when she was born? i am gasping for air, at the thought that you have come here and graced our blessed table. i sure hope you didn’t mind all my rambling. i really rambled on this one. sort of delirious, i am. as this is the FIRST girl anywhere since i was born. and i already mentioned how long ago that was.
anyway, i cannot thank you enough dear beautiful sarah for being the hands and the heart and the shoulder and the wisdom that i wish i could have been in that room. for every single one of us who will spend our whole life long marvelling at the miracle of ella’s safe, serene arrival, well, we are speechlessly grateful.
please come back to visit, we love magical nurses here at the table. and i’ve a great good feeling other folks in the family will want to shower you with blessings. for everything you have given beautiful becc and gorgeous david, with my whole heart i thank you.
i was hoping to write you at the hospital, and now it seems i’ve written you right here.
sending love, auntie babs
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 – 09:43 PM
Ella is a very lucky little girl to have an aunt like you…to say nothing of her parents. I can only imagine all the publishable material you will provide for that little girl…
Congratulations on a new experience in your life. You’ve come full circle.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 – 10:03 PM
woke up with a rumble in my belly, knowing this is the day that david and becc bring ella home.
for any of us who ever strapped a sweet blessed newborn into the infant seat for the very first tme, pulled ever-so-tenuously out of the hospital drive, into TRAFFIC for cryin out loud (can’t they invent supertransporters for this ferry ride?)…for everyone of us who remembers it being the longest, trembliest drive that ever there was, sort of like steering your three-wheeled vehicle along the rim of an active volcano, well, we’ll we’re with you, sweethearts.
so i just want to send blessings and untrembly hands and maybe a heart that tries not to skip a few beats in the thick of it all.
a dear wise friend of mine long ago said, and i still remember, how he stood there on the landing outside his apartment, fumbling for keys, clutching the infant seat handle in the other fist, and suddenly he froze: he’d just realized they’d sent him home without an instruction manual. never before had he been sent home from the appliance or the electronics store without such a step-by-step guide, so where in the world was the one that explained what to do with this squawling, squirming appendage he’d just acquired? the one whose life depended on him…..
we’re here if you need us, sweethearts. but then the next time you’ll have a chance to peek at a computer screen will be when she’s, oh, five.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 08:08 AM
Baby Ella looks so perfectly sturdy and vibrantly hot pink in that photo. I know that her parents will not need an owner’s manual. Babies are problem-solvers who know how to get their needs met, and Ella will do just what she needs to enlist those around her to grow. I can imagine Auntie Babs being the magical sort of relative. May Ella take after her a bit–perhaps with springy curls, gift of words, gushing heart, observer of essences. Variations on a theme.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 09:59 AM
You’ve already given her a perfect gift – this wonderful welcome that you’ve penned – a treasure for all times.
And you’ve given her even more – your promise to be there for her. And you’ll love love love being an aunty of a little girl….
Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 12:54 PM
hmmmm: housekeeping note here…..
i understand that, like a new baby, the comment boxes are being a little fussy today. rather than lose a chance to record forever one of elena’s visitor’s fine thoughts, how bout this: if you are having trouble getting a comment on, please email me at email@example.com, and i will get it to the table, till i can get my technical committee to iron out the kinks.
egad, so sorry it’s picking today to be so iffy.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 06:33 PM
we can study to learn the science, but it will take a lifetime to fathom the mystery of birth. years leading to the decision to start a family, months progressing from cell division to “size of a blueberry” to full term fetus, hours of labor, then in an instant, through the canal into this world…everything changes, a rush of activity and she lands upon mama’s chest.
how can this be? now we find out, moment by moment. i hold her and hours pass, unnoticed. i breathe deeply. she sleeps. she knows no time, and i become lost in her realm of eye movement, outstretched arms, craning neck, big big yawn.
what is this? i feel, at last, that i have entered the mystery of life.
and thank you babs, for such a strong story, and all that is to follow.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 06:59 PM
Happy, happy, happy! Simply tickled pink … auntie bam finally gets her
David’s words are enough to melt anyone’s heart. Oh, the wonder of
holding your just-born child. There is absolutely nothing like it.
Congratulations to the Mahany family all around.
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 12:18 AM
The Galaxies Between
Michael here…I always knew Barbie wanted a sister, then wanted a daughter, then a niece, and finally Ella is here! Congratulations, Auntie Babs!
What I didn’t fully grasp (until this blog) is how GREAT the desire was/is!
We siblings think we know each other. Ha! I’ve known B all my life. Really now? So there’s much to learn…Our noses are almost touching, yet there are galaxies between.
As for Ma, Pa, & Ella… God bless you! xoxox
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 12:35 AM
like steering your three-wheeled vehicle
along the rim
of an active volcano
Your simile makes me si-mile. 😉
I see only the front wheel is on the rim, the back two are hither and yon.
Thank God for His amazing grace.
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 01:07 AM
Welcome, welcome, welcome, Ella Bella!! Love your pinky pink baby skin and declaration of ‘Here I am!” up there in that first published photo. Can just imagine how those first shouts of arrival sounded to the ears that waited so long to hear your voice….. Congratulations mom and dad, she’s simply beautiful…… and congratulations to ‘Auntie Babs’ who evidently has been planning LOTS and LOTS of playdates for you….. Congratulations to all of us, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, etc……We’ve been blessed with a beautiful new little girl to love………….
psssst……Maybe Auntie Babs can find some extra dough to roll out beside you for another auntie who’d like some ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ too…..she’s been steeped in ‘snips and snails’ for quite some time herself…….
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 01:07 AM
there is silence in the house, save the sniffles and gasps for breath. i have just read the story to becca, who sits on the sofa, holding elena. i read the story aloud because becca has been too busy to find time at the screen and so this made sense. and in reading it aloud, i realized, i was reading it to elena too.
“just unbelievable,” becca whispers.
i pause for a moment, now, to catch my breath…
“now read the comments…”
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 07:09 AM
becca, david, ella…
that is why i write. it is the beginning and end of my reason for being, i sometimes think. to wrap life, in all its moments, in the holiest of words. to say aloud what pulses in my heart. some people get to put fingers to keyboards and make heaven sounds that fill the room. so splash colors on canvas. i quietly type and hope and pray that the words find the crevices of the heart for which they are intended. the thought of becc and ella getting to hear the spoken word, from your lips, with your cadence, well that sends me back again around the moon where i’ve been orbiting since monday……
if you take ella to the window tonight, and point toward the moon, and you see a little dot wisping around in circles, tell her that’s auntie babs out there, doing what aunties do when dreams come true.
the best part of writing comments, i realize, is that this little computer pops the box up right next to ella and i get to stare at her while i type. does anyone else have stevie wonder stuck in their head? the isn’tshelovely line????
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 09:40 AM
I am sitting here glued to this wonderful website, smiling and crying, which is how life is supposed to be, especially if you are Irish!
What a beautiful sight you are, sitting there thinking about life and that new little angel, and writing those wonderful words for her and everyone who reads it. If I close my eyes, I imagine what you look like when you write, the happiness and glow about you is amazing. How blessed your family is to have you to pen those wonderful thoughts for all to enjoy. She will cherish them forever. When we see a new baby, it makes the world a better place and renews our faith in miracles, as a new baby is the greatest miracle of all! Enjoy these special times and remember, you will always be close to her no matter what the distance.
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 02:58 PM
Yes, yes, isn’t she lovely! No question about it. Congrats to everyone in this beautiful baby’s extended family. She is truly surrounded by pink laced love! Thanks for sharing your tale with us, Auntie Babs! I look forward to hearing more about this gorgeous little girl, especially that precious first meeting you two will soon have.
Lots of hugs and more good wishes to all of you!
Friday, April 17, 2009 – 04:01 PM
In her ever so brief life, this beautiful and healthy little girl has already created many connections filled with love. Welcome Miss EMB – you are a great gift to all!
Saturday, April 18, 2009 – 08:31 AM
welcome child, welcome wonder, welcome miss darling ella…blessings and bliss to ma and pa and bam and entire extended family. ain’t she a beaut?!
oh very young, what will you teach us this time?
the love lessons have begun again, thank god.
i prayed such thanks for a child unrelated to me by blood, but by love-most assured endless love will be surrounding the babe from maine, already touched with grace by the nurse who beheld her birth, held by the mama and papa who knew in one quick second- joy and devotion big as the sky, the grandma of the whole brood reining every one in with her voice of proclamation-“she’s here…,”
and the joy, ever abundant at this table with our chairlady, bam- vulnerable to her own wishes,wants, sorrows now all tucked away to be filled, overflowing with her girl, miss elena.
and the chorus here, where all the voices gather, the singers of life in complete harmony…feel the love?
Saturday, April 18, 2009 – 08:42 AM
how wonderful! such happy news for you all. such happy beginnings..
Saturday, April 18, 2009 – 09:34 PM
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