Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The simple and pleasant purpose of this brief post is to introduce my readers to the future in the most attractive form of Hazel Elizabeth Fleming, my newest granddaughter. Yesterday we flew to Montreal, where Hazel lives with her mother and father and brother. The journey seemed to have an allegorical dimension, moving from an almost fetid over-ripeness to a revivifying freshness. Technically, we are still in spring, but it was one of those hot and saturated mornings that suggest the New Jersey state motto (The Garden State) ought, to accord with federal “Truth in Advertising” laws, be known as the Jungle State. Here in Canada we found a perfect early summer day, its air soft but also fresh and dry, with every green leaf bright and articulate. In school I was made to memorize some lines of Lowell—a poet from whom I probably could quote no others—and they now came to mind. “And what is so rare as a day in June? Then if ever come perfect days…” That was the feeling as, by mid-afternoon, we were all sitting on the stoop of our son’s house chatting and watching the neighborhood children play, as Hazel snoozed in her little carry-crib.
Snoozing is young Hazel’s principal occupation at the moment. Eating is a fairly distant second. Of fussing and crying there is very little. Augustine took the view that the doctrine of Original Sin was empirically demonstrable in the naked self-centeredness of infants. If only he had had the chance to meet Hazel Fleming, the whole history of the Pelagian controversy might have been different. Surely she merits the adoring attention, stopping only short of babyolatry, of all those surrounding her? Or nearly all. Her brother John Henry (æt 2) reserves the right to evidence occasional ambiguity toward the new and minute person whose arrival has inevitably caused such a major revision of his Weltanschaung. But on the whole his chivalric instincts prevail, and he often joins his elders in the prevailing reverential fascination.
Here she is, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, yet distanced from me by a vast, intriguing alterity. Hazel is 195 pounds lighter that I, and four and a half feet shorter. She is seventy-eight years and three days younger. I lay my hand next to hers to find hers the size of two joints of my little finger. Was my crinkled old skin, tanned and spotted with purple blotches, ever so smooth, rosy, creamy as hers? I myself can barely credit the world into which I was born. How astonishing would it be to her? How more astonishing yet will be the world in which she will find herself when she is my age? All newborns are, or should be, children of promise. Hazel’s promise practically glows from her crib. She sets out in life endowed with the priceless capital of a splendid mother and a spendid father. May this beautiful child, who brings joy to all who look upon her, who has already improved our needy world simply by coming into it, thrive, growing in grace day by day.