One year ago, something happened. God sent a little package postmarked “Special Delivery” to our family. In this package came a beautiful baby girl named Ava Claire. She was born to a loving mommy and daddy and a host of grandparents, uncles, aunties, and a pappy and nana who couldn’t wait to love her. How could one baby change the entire dynamic of a family? I think we softened and began to believe in childhood, once again.
In our family, everyone is grown and focused on goals and careers. As parents, my sisters and I were in the phase where we were moms not managers; supporting dreams and choices and letting our little birds fly out of a nest that had grown uncomfortable in young adulthood…what a bummer! We still want to be needed but our kids were growing not to need us…what do we do now? We settled into these new roles like a coat that was too big and made from itchy wool. We had countless conversations regarding this phase that we didn’t find liberating at all.
Then…the news came. A baby was on the way! With a renewed sense of wonder and purpose, we began another journey together. My sister was going to be a grandmother and we were going to be great aunts! Suddenly, we had a new topic of conversation and new aisles and departments to frequent at the stores! The ache of our kids growing began to lessen in the wake of a baby’s arrival.
To make a long story short, what a year and what a baby girl! We have stories from the hospital that should be on You-Tube! There we were…the three of us like it’s always been and as it should always be. Little Ava has captivated all of us and reduced us to a group of baby-talking, face-making, clapping and cheering fans. We are her puppets as we have joked! Whatever she wants, love brings it to her. There’s the lesson in that for me. Love and those who love her meet her every need. She is cared for and adored, to put it mildly! She looks to her mommy and daddy because she knows they are there to love and give her what she needs. She never doubts because she knows…they did this before so they will do it again….that’s how faith begins! Our Heavenly Father does the same thing for us, His children. We can be independent and still utterly dependent on Father God.
As a result of Ava’s faith in her parents, her grandparents, uncles, and her loving family, she is a happy baby! She’s always smiling and charming us to the point that before long, I said, she’s going to walk in the room and all of us will start opening our wallets! Why? We want her happy and joyful; we want her to never lose that smile or her faith in her family. This is her foundation from which to grow; these are her formative years and we are sending messages written with hearts filled with unconditional love.
I think of the beautiful classic by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree when I think of Ava. I see her in this story which begins like this:
Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play King of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…very much. And the tree was happy. But time went by. And the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone.
The story goes on and describes how the tree continued to give all that it had to make the boy happy: fruit so he could make money, branches so he could build a house, the trunk so he could make a boat, and even as the tree was left a stump, the boy was offered a place to sit quietly and rest. The only thing that made the tree happy was giving to the boy he loved. The tree gave everything to the very end…everything. But, if the boy was happy, the tree was happy.
The story describes love. The story describes parenting. The story describes Our Savior. And for one family, the story describes the love we have for one little girl with her mommy’s big brown eyes and her daddy’s mischievous smile…because once there was a family and they loved a little girl and for her they spread out their many branches to give her shade, to keep her knowing she is always loved and protected. She has done the giving and the teaching thus far and to God, we thank you for this blessing, this gift, this life…Happy 1st Birthday Ava Claire!