Friday, May 14, 2010

The girl with the flaxen hair

I have to admit off the top that this photo is way out of date. That little girl, one Erica Morgan, is now turning five, a momentous age that represents a developmental leap, and
a new readiness to read and write and sit still long enough to attend classes.
Plus she still breaks the cute-o-meter every time.
Erica Morgan is a princess from tip to toe, from her tossing curls to her crystal-blue eyes,with the longest eyelashes anyone has ever seen. They're like fans, for God's sake. When she flutters her eyelids, there's a breeze.
All my four grandkids are wondrous to me, representing the upspringing of new life in the midst of a very dry wasteland. My disillusion with the writing business (NOT with writing itself, which was still compelling) had parched my insides into those flakes you see in the desert, you know, in National Geographic or someplace.
Erica made her debut at such a time, and I will never forget rounding the corner in the hospital room and seeing her for the first time: she looked like a tiny, pink, compact, living rosebud, and she had that ineffable sweet baked-biscuit smell of the newly-arrived.
It's a fascinating thing watching any baby become themselves, evolve into
who they are going to be. I remember reading somewhere (maybe one of those myths we all ascribe to, like "you remember everything that ever happened to you" and "we only use 2% of our brains") that our personalities are basically set by age two. Yikes. Parents who've made any mistakes at all must shudder at such a statement.
But such is the fluidity and surprise of human nature that even the worst two years can cause the plant to grow around the obstacle. Cedars abound here, and many of them grow too near power lines. Often they have to be trimmed in a weird-looking circle. I saw one recently that had put out a lot of new branches, but they all came straight up within a couple of inches of the power line. The tree "knew".
So what does this have to do with Princess Erica? Even the best life in the world is burdened. If nothing else, it's burdened by turning on the TV (guaranteed to depress anyone) and finding out about oil spills and plane crashes and little children dismembered by fiends. Who can fail to feel something, not hopeful, but horrific?
We need to say to our kids and grandkids, it's all right, there are terrible things out there in the world, but here, in your own home, it's not like that. The odd emotional explosion clears quickly for the most part, and it's back to the twinkly, shrieky fun of two little blondies tearing around the living room.
I love them beyond endurance, sometimes, and I do worry about the sort of earth they will inherit. Is violence escalating, or is it just reported more accurately (the old saw that journalists fall back on)? What about the stress of a madly-accelerating world, with gadgets replacing real human contact and people swelling in gross obesity due to grabbing the easy drug of junk food?
It wasn't supposed to be that way. I remember back in the '60s, there
were all sorts of reports of Xanadu, the World of the Future, of a lean, fit population (all that low-fat cooking, remember?) only having to work three days a week, spending the rest of the time in creative and recreational pursuits.
(Oh, and remember those dumb-ass domed cities, like something out of the Jetsons?)
It isn't going to be that way for Erica, my little blondie. I hope she will manage. Acceleration tends to lead to more acceleration, unless stopped by a crash. Like the frog slowly stewed in increasingly-heated water, we just don't notice it, until we see the alarming increase of depression and addiction and autism and. . . fat.
It's doubtful Erica, in her sparkly little tutu and candystriped tights, will be anything other than sylphlike. I want a happy life for her, want it more than I want to live. I have the tremendous opportunity to love her without reservation, without the burdens of parenthood. I can be the fun nanny who chases them around the room, plays Barbies and PlayDoh and paper giraffes.
Sometimes I ask myself: What good will it do? Won't they forget? Is any of this banked in the psyche? How much do we remember?
No matter. Maybe it's for me, as much as them, and I will remember, remember every single sweet blessed day that I get to love them.