If you’re ever in doubt as to whether people are inherently good or inherently evil, have a baby, and you will see the goodness in people pour out of their hearts in ways big and small that will knock your socks off. I’m not just talking about the texts from my Dad that make my heart melt every time he calls my sons beautiful, or the homemade chicken noodle soup my mother-in-law made for us (along with lasagna, and ribs and potatoes, and about a half dozen other frozen meals for the next few weeks), or the glorious colors and fibers in the blanket my mom knitted for Oscar – those things are all extremely good and wonderful and appreciated, but coming from our parents, I’m simply reassured in their love for us – a love I am truly grateful for, but one I already knew we received.
I guess I’m talking about unexpected generosity: colleagues who not only made us homemade apple pie, but who gave me their sick days so I could take a paid maternity leave. I’m not kidding. This really happened. Until recently, Josh and I planned on sharing his sick days, since we teach at the same school, to cover my maternity leave. But the policy changed. And we were sick to our stomachs about how we were going to manage, financially, once Oscar arrived. There was no way we could last weeks without my income; conversely, there was no way I could imagine returning to work after only a few short weeks at home. When our friends at work caught wind of this, they offered their days eagerly, and our fears were quickly assuaged. We were overwhelmed by their generosity, and our hearts swelled with gratitude.
I’m also talking about the goodness of friends who send their love in other ways, like through text messages, phone calls, and baked goods. Over the past few weeks – both in anticipation of Oscar’s arrival and in the wake of his birth – relatives and friends from near and far have reached out to me with messages of love. Last week, a beautiful blanket with Oscar’s name monogramed in the corner arrived in the mail from one of my oldest childhood friends. On Sunday, my sister, Kelley, showed up with delicious food and offered to clean my bathroom (but I said I’d rather her just drink wine with me instead). Last night, two of our dearest friends stopped over with homemade butternut squash soup, freshly baked bread, homemade chocolate & butterscotch chip cookies, and wine. This morning, I opened the dishwasher, fully expecting it to be dirty, but found it sparkling clean. My husband – the one who had to return to work this week – stayed up last night to not only finish washing the diapers, but to clean the kitchen and wash my breast pump (these aren’t unusual acts for Josh to tackle; they’re just nice to wake up to and be surprised by). It’s these little reminders of other peoples’ generosity that makes me feel so lucky to be alive.
And even as I cringe a little at the memory of (perhaps more often than not) being the forgetful friend in times when I should have reciprocated such love…I have to wonder…what is it about babies that makes people swoon? Certainly they’re soft and lovely and miraculously delicious to kiss, but there’s more, I think. It must the sheer possibility they contain – at once magnificent and humble – to be good and to do good work in our world. They represent a clean slate, a fresh start. We have so much hope for them and so much love that it makes everyone a little punch drunk and, therefore, I presume, generous. Whatever the reason, I must say that as a new mama once again, I am eternally grateful for all the goodness that has been bestowed upon me – not the least of which is my cooing baby boy.