Thursday, September 12, 2002

The grandchild

Biological insurance policy

        You haven't asked, but I'll tell you anyway. Marlo just took her first steps this week. Unassisted. You may have grandchildren of your own and possibly you think they are the most amusing, most beautiful, most brilliant children on the planet. Possibly you are wrong.

        This extraordinary child has eight teeth, and so far she has not used them to bite anybody. But she uses her auburn hair and enormous blue eyes ruthlessly. Those of us in her orbit scramble to provide whatever she appears to need. Those needs, like her little self, are uncomplicated. A pacifier. A lap. Food. A dry diaper.

Cracking the code

        Her parents wish she would meditate more. They've heard stories about babies who spend hours in a playpen, gurgling and sucking on their toes, but they have never seen this personally. Marlo is an escape artist, explorer and an orator. We haven't cracked the code yet, but I'm fairly certain babbadaddabaaaaa means “I adore you, Mamaw.”

        Likewise, I'm sure.

        This was not automatic. We got off to a rocky start. The first time I held her, if she could have spoken, she'd have demanded to speak to my supervisor. The first time I babysat, my daughter and son-in-law returned to find her slumbering peacefully.

        “She screamed herself to sleep,” my elder granddaughter, the amazing Rosie, reported helpfully.

        These little packages are biological insurance policies. They make us determined that, even though we won't be around to see it, their more complicated needs will be met. They'll have clean water and clean air, trees and good schools. We want their future to be at least as good as our past. We want them to be safe. And free.

        Marlo was less than two months away from being her very remarkable self last year at this time. I didn't know her, and I didn't know anybody who died that day.


        Then America came to know Todd Beamer and flight attendant CeeCee Lyles, who died together on United Flight 93. We know NYFD chaplain Mychal Judge, who died administering last rites in the north tower. We have come to know not only the victims of the terrorist attack, but we now know their husbands and wives and sons and daughters and grandchildren.

        Reporters worked like crazy to be worthy of the franchise we get from the First Amendment. To let you know what this country lost, to give you something more significant than a body count.

        And although we here at the newspaper would prefer that you think we hide in your front yard, working on your paper until you come out in your tattered robe to fish it out of the bushes, the truth is that we finish most of it by bedtime the night before.

        So, I knew you might read this the day after the anniversary of our national tragedy. And I tried to figure out a way to give you some relief from the horror.

        But in real time, it was 9-11 — and that was all I could think about. I hope you passed the day in a way that gave you comfort, hope for the future. Myself, I telephoned my daughter and asked for a photo of Marlo.

        On her feet.

        Reach Laura by e-mail or phone 768-8393.



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