This isn’t just the 1st day of spring

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There are two birthdays today, but many gifts for others.

By Steve Doyle

Today to you is the first day of spring, arriving on the calendar if not exactly aligned with the forecast this week of lows perhaps near the teens. Just when the daffodils start to feel welcome, they get smacked with snow, ice and more petal-numbing temperatures. Maybe this is the confernal equinox.

But I’m not here to talk about the weather, no matter how easily that topic has been known to consume dead air, recourse dragging dinner conversations and fill the blank pages of uninspired typists. But those aren’t me.

Today, in my world, we celebrate the birth of something fresh and new and wonderful, as spring is supposed to be. Today, we celebrate the birth of my 6-year-old daughter and my 1-year-old granddaughter, each born preciously on the first day of spring, perhaps as pure a metaphor as God has scripted.

This past weekend, we were introduced to the 1-year-old, who visited from Florida with her mom. This was love at long past first sight of course, and it was a beguiling orientation for two young women I expect will be fast, fast friends as time moves along.

Savannah is the 6-year-old, and maybe you know the story of how we traveled to China and brought her home, a 9-month-old angel swaddled in eight layers of clothes, placed in her loving mother’s arms in an officious meeting at a very cold high-rise building.

Hazel is the 1-year-old, the child of my older daughter, Amanda, and her husband, Sean, who were married for nearly a decade before God found just the right person to deliver into their loving and joyous arms. That both girls came to us on the same day is likewise heaven-sent. And watching our two precious angels – not to mention a much-interested 11-year-old “uncle” – get acquainted fufilled joyous expectations for the older folks.

“I haven’t been around a baby in a long time,” Savannah said the other morning, as she all of a sudden revealed she had been pondering this arrival of a newbie. I smiled. Her life was going to change, but she would have to discover how it would change and embrace that concept.

It was obvious, though, that she considered the role of “aunt” to be of the same ilk as, say, “caretaker.” She discussed this with smiles and chuckles of uncertainty but in considered phrases of thoughtfulness.

Embracing is her specialty. This girl is loving and giving, leaving behind gifts for all she encounters. She takes her time to get to know people, and then she becomes loyal and precious. She has a considered fearlessness that inspires all of us. And once she has warmed to you, it doesn’t matter your role in her life. You take up residence in a special chamber of her heart.

And embracing Hazel was, of course, quite the easiest thing. She is such a huggable munchkin who crawls ferociously, pulls up aggressively, has tasted sushi, eats organic, loves the word “bubbles” – presumably because of her commitment to luxurious baths – and knows there is no one finer in the world than her mother.

That’s a tune these two girls hum in perfect harmony: Their Moms are their bombs. I’ll sing amen to that, too.

Like Savannah, Hazel also is careful about new people, mostly because odd voices, long arms and odd faces tend to be a bit scary, especially when they are constantly and unsettlingly proffered.

So as you can imagine that first meeting of these two was like the first moments of a big-time prize fight. They circled the “ring”(of adults) and eyed one another, each reaching for the stability and comfort of a nearby loved one, each trying to figure how to communicate in their own separate and distinct ways.

They reached for one another, turned away from one another. One sort of screeched, and the other was perfectly silent, almost like two horses thrown into a pasture for the first time, although, thankfully, there was no territorial establishment and certainly no biting or kicking.

But before long they came to a cozy and warm place, with Hazel seeming to watch her aunt with great studiousness and wonder, and Savannah reaching out to share stuffed animals, open up crawling space and even be the “pull-up pole” during her dinner. She found that to be particularly funny. It was clear that love was in the air.

All of us embraced Hazel – as much as a 360-odd-day old child would allow – and, although she had experienced air travel and snow, we helped her orient to meet many new faces – including her G-dad and his parents – and make personal discoveries that may endure, such as tasting pizza, a bagel, watching NASCAR (enthusiastically) and becoming the fifth generation of our family to attend service of Dover Baptist Church.

Today Hazel is back in Florida, where conditions are infinitely more springlike and she has another large cadre of loving support. A party is in her near future. But she left behind on her flight home not a toy or a scratch or a dent or any other childlike track.

She left behind an array of family members who love her and a 6-year-old who will sign on to coach her through the next phases of life. Could any little one ask for more?

Happy birthday, Hazel. Happy birthday, Savannah.

And thank you both for the gifts you gave to all of us.