Sunday, April 23, 2006

Church Baby

Isaac was a "church baby".

I first heard that term from my mom. A baby born into a family that is active and visible in the church congregation. Eagerly awaited, and greatly celebrated in its extended "church family" when it finally makes an appearance. Passed from shoulder to shoulder during Sunday School classes, familiar with every toy in the toddler nursery and the recipient of baptismal cards from assorted fond adoptive "grandmas" and "aunties".

We hadn't been members of our congregations very long when Elizabeth or Alex were born; they were welcome additions to the Cradle Roll, but not cause for any particular excitement outside a small circle of friends. By the time Isaac came along, we were heavily involved in children's choir, Sunday School and the Confirmation mentor program. EVERYONE knew we were having that baby. Generous ladies filled our freezer with casseroles, offerings of diapers appeared from nowhere and I had to explain to my mentored Confirmand that I would TRY to be at the next class activity, but babies hold their own schedules and I couldn't make any promises. (He went home and grumbled to his mom that "She looked okay to ME!").

Isaac made his first appearance at church services when he was 5 days old, causing a near traffic jam in the aisle after Communion as his fond admirers stopped to pet his spiky black hair and stroke his hands.

It's been a while since our current congregation has had a "church baby", but early last fall, word began to get around. A delightful young couple whom everybody knows and loves was expecting a very-long-awaited first child. The choir, the education committee, the Relay for Life team, the worship committee all watched and waited through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and on into Lent. The expectant mom was radiant, the father proud. There were the requisite showers, and as April approached, gatherings began with "HAS the baby come yet?"

And then, in the best Church Baby fashion, Ella was born late on a Saturday, just in time to be the top news on Sunday morning. The pastor's announcement was greeted with smiles and silent cheers, then concern as he added that the baby was "under observation". So small, so new, Ella was in the prayers of an extended family she didn't know existed. While we worried about the baby, we also grieved as a group for her parents and the sudden shift in their expectations.

Over the next few days, phone calls and e-mails gave the details; few at first, then more. A named "syndrome", a defect in the baby's jaw and palate. There could be surgery eventually. Time, modern medicine and love would combine to work miracles.

This morning, there was a new person at "late church", wrapped in a flowered pink blanket. There was nearly a traffic jam in the aisle after Communion as adopted "grandmas" and "aunties" waited to get a peek at the new baby. It's been 3 weeks exactly since our collective worried gasp.

Today, we all welcomed Ella home.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another year's nest

I think this one might have been 2005. One chick fell out of the nest (always traumatic) but the nest at least stayed intact. It's NEAR the corner, but still all on one wall. This year's nest is shifted fully into that corner. No photos yet.

Experimental Design

The barn swallows are back. Mr. and Mrs. B. Swallow, to be precise. This is the 5th year that a pair of the small orange-throated birds with deeply forked tails has chosen our front entryway to build a nest and raise a family. I like to think it's the same pair each year, but unless you happen to be a barn swallow, it's pretty hard to tell.

They show up one fine day in April and sit on the eaves for several days, considering the situation. Any new cats? No. Bird bath still in the garden and operational? Yep. Pesky humans still going in and out their front door? Yes, but we can tolerate them. OK, then. Build the nest!

They have chosen the same section of brick wall, 2 stories up and just under the roof for the past 4 years. The mud-and-straw nest takes them only a couple of days to complete, then mama moves in and papa takes up his post on the rain gutter, ready to swoop outward from the house, drawing attention away from the nest every time one of those humans goes through the door. His attention never wavers. Would that every mother of babies had such an attentive mate.

Honestly, I'm surprised to see them back. Two nests in the past 4 years have fallen down before the family was finished living there. One year, the chicks were nearly grown, and took Father's place on the gutter, clamoring shrilly to Mama and Dad to "Get that new nest FINISHED!". A new nest was completed in record time, and the family moved back in. Unfortunately, the babies in another year weren't so lucky; the nest plummeted to the ground long before the babies were self-sufficient and the parents had an agonizing 48 hours trying to protect their fallen chicks until they all were dead. The parents never built a second nest, but stayed disconsolately around their barren nursery for a few more weeks until their usual time of migration.

But here they are, and this year they have a new idea. Whether by actual design or by chance, this year's nest is different. All of the past nests have been semi-circular; a quarter of a solid oval cemented to the flat face of the wall. Not this year. Now, they have a quarter-circle design going; rather, an eighth of the oval solid. It's snugged up in the corner, with two walls supporting it. More brick wall, less mud and straw. Perhaps the birds have been reading up on the 3 Little Pigs and house building techniques over the winter.

I'm eagerly awaiting the results of their new design.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter revelations

I've been filling Easter baskets for 22 years now, and frankly, I'm running out of inspiration. (By the way, if you find the thought of bunnies and baskets not in keeping with the true celebration of Easter, this blog entry isn't for you. I've never had an problems combining the sublime with the ridiculous at Easter or at Christmas). With Easter only a few days away, I decided to change my approach. I declared myself OUT of the Easter Bunny business, and informed Alex and Isaac that each was in charge of his brother's Easter basket. This was almost a guarantee of rather unusual Easter fare, as both are devotees of role playing card and character games. I gave each a small budget and stood back.

They might have been surprised at the change in routine, but they took the news with grace and made their plans. Alex had a moment of doubt after he had been out shopping...He asked me suddenly if he "was supposed to have bought a chocolate bunny". Whatever you think, dear. It's up to you.

About 10:00 last night, there was dissatisfaction in the house. Seems that neither boy wanted to be the FIRST to go to bed. It is hard to hide a basket when the recipient is still up and roaming around. Right. That could be part of the reason I was tired of being the bunny. At length, however, baskets were hidden and lights were extinguished. All was silent.

Christ is risen, Shout hosanna!
Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen, Hush in wonder: all creation is amazed.
In the desert all surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.

Morning brought the revelation. Not only are the boys good gift shoppers, something appears to have registered from those years of Sunday School lessons and discussion of symbolism in the Church. While a bit unorthodox on the outside, the Easter Basket contents were strangely in keeping with the spirit of the day.

Isaac is the new owner of a Red/Green mixed color deck of Magic: The Gathering cards. Alex's logic was that Green represented the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Cross, mixed together with the Red of the blood of the Lamb. He also included a small pouch of 10-sided dice; dice for the casting of lots for Christ's robe, and 10 as a reminder of the 10 Commandments. The RED marshmallow Peeps stymied us at first, but on closer inspection, they fit as well. Bright red sugar on the outside, pure white on the inside. "Though your sins be as scarlet..."

Christ is risen! Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning. See what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection, Not a servant, but a friend,
Jesus is our strong companion. Joy and peace shall never end.

Alex's basket from Isaac showed no less thought. Isaac chose a "Trinity of Resurrection"; three items representing new life. While the two vampire models aren't exactly going to show up in a Confirmation worksheet, I couldn't argue with the life-out-of-death comparison. The Black/White Magic: The Gathering deck was even more clear cut. Because of the way the cards work with each other, it is possible, yea, even necessary, for someone to Lose a Life so that a Life may be Gained. This was explained to me over the Easter cinnamon rolls.

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus: "Christ is risen! Get you gone!"
God the first and last is with us. Sing hosanna, everyone!

Vampires and Magic cards in the Easter baskets? Why not? We need have no fear of death or evil.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

And in the mean time, I believe that the true lessons of the Cross have been well learned.

Hymn text:
Brian Wren, 1983, Praising a Mystery, 1986
copyright © 1986 Hope Publishing Co.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Casual Glamour Capelet"

Daughter Elizabeth chose this pattern (from Stitch Diva Studios) and I chose the yarn (Noro Cash Iroha). The yarn is a blend of silk, wool and cashmere and wonderfully fun to work with. No model available when I wanted to photograph the finished capelet, so I improvised. Elizabeth suggested that my "model" looked like it was wearing a muumuu.