Ruthie Turns One

We celebrated Ruthie’s first birthday with hurricane rains and pumpkins.

Life in the storm.

She’s a full toddler now. Running and laughing and hitting.  Her passions are her sisters and the animal crackers that come in the plastic bear- shaped container from Wal-Mart. She’s consumed far more french fries than the average 12 month old and sounds like a guinea pig. She squeaks and grunts even as I insist on teaching her English. Her only word is “Done.” (Meaning “done” with my fruit, give me some fries.)

There’s so much of the past 18 months that is a blur. But I do remember my first visit to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy.  This not being my first rodeo, so to speak, I wrangled my way into an early ultrasound appointment. I didn’t believe the test. I wanted to see the light on the screen. The flash of the heart beat that comes up before the heartbeat can even be heard.

Except after I waited in the first waiting room, then the second waiting room, called to have a second babysitter relieve the first, and waited some more, staring at the heavily wallpapered walls of the Williamsburg OBGYN, decorated to replicate all of our town’s fine Bed and Breakfasts, the ultra sound surprised me.

Instead of the flashing light I’d anticipated, there she was.

“It’s too early to see that much,” I informed the Ultra Sound Tech. Because I’m the expert.

“Sometimes you can see this much,” she said. (Is this a science?)

I drove home. To three little girls, a little house. A tired babysitter.

We were in a storm. It had been a hard two years and there was still a lot of uncertainty. We were also just figuring out how to have three.

Yet, there she was.

But we didn’t know yet that she was a “she.” If she had been a “he,” we would have named him Jonah. It took me four pregnancies to wear Travis down but in the eighth month of this one, he finally conceded. We could name the baby Jonah.

Jonah. Life in the storm.

Well, no.  That’s a metaphor I contrived completely for this post.

I wanted to have a baby boy named Jonah ever since this movie. Obviously.

Remember when Tom Hanks runs across the rooftop of the Empire State Building, screaming “Jonah!! Jonah!!” because his eight year old son has booked himself a flight from Seattle to New York and run away in search of his Dad’s true-love-he’s-never-met Annie? And then they see each other in this scene and Jonah stands there and beams and all they can say his “Hello Sam” and “Hello Annie” and then they walk off hand in hand to the elevator while Jimmy Durante begins singing “You must Remember This?”

You must remember that.

 I decided in 1993 that if I ever had a baby boy, I would name him Jonah.

And in 2014, I decided if it was a girl, our fourth girl, I would name her after my sister.

Then she arrived brown-eyed and dimpled, and it sealed the deal. Ruth Miriam the 3rd. We called her Baby Ruthie from the start, still do much of the time. My sister warned her in an early post-birth blessing that people would continually approach her and say “Ohhh, Ruth! That was my grandmother’s name.” It’s fine, she owns it.

Then, three days into 2015,  my grandmother, a Raquel, not a Ruth, “Baba” died and as I waited to speak at her service I stood with my Aunt Ruthie, not far from my Sister Ruthie, as my daughter Ruthie slept in the church nursery. Life in the storm.

I felt so much that day but the strongest feeling I had I could not name until I was speaking later to a friend. I described the feelings of being with this family that had formed me, as we laughed and cried and carried each other on. There was something so specific I felt.  What was it? What was that feeling?

“It’s belonging,” she said. “That’s how it feels to belong.”

Dear Sweet Ruthie,

Happy Birthday Baby Girl. I’m so glad you love cake this much. It’s an often available dessert option.

With God’s help, may you become yourself, wherever that takes you. The most fun of my life will be watching that enfold. But I pray that every time you hear your name and eventually form the letters, you remember that you belong. In the storms and in the calm. You have from the very very beginning.   Squeak on, Sweet Girl. Squeak on.

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