Measuring Our Joy


The writer has asked to retain her anonymity to respect her children’s privacy. 

At 63, I’m elated about the birth of my first grandchild, a little boy born in early September. 

He is, with gratitude to God, everything grandparents get to say about a healthy grandchild: alert, interested, beautiful. And how much we adore him at just a few days old is magnified by the fact that during the global pandemic he and his alert, interested and beautiful parents live too far from us to visit and hug. His saba and I have opted to wait for the vaccine instead of traveling to Jerusalem where our little guy lives. 

But today as I was feeling wistful—even as his other grandmother takes such beautiful photos and videos just to share with us — I began writing notes to friends and family to announce our grandson’s arrival since the baby’s parents asked for no news and certainly no photos on social media. 

As I went through my list I realized that among the people receiving notes would be friends who lost children and would not be welcoming their own grandchildren, friends still waiting for their children to move to next stages, friends who didn’t marry but embraced our family amidst their busy lives.  

“What to write?”, I wonder, especially since among the highlights of my life was my father’s custom to sing  a psalm before havdalah, the prayer that ends the Sabbath and brings us back to the week, and includes the line “may you see your children’s children.” My father saw all ten; the two my mother never met are named for her. We also sing that psalm at family weddings, including just two years ago at my son’s simcha. The night before my wedding, at a quiet havdalah in my childhood home, I watched and listened as my father sang, ushering me into the next phase of my life.  

News of a baby is joyous, of course, but not always at the same wattage for everyone.

Three months after my mother passed away, when my kids were so little, just two and four and a half, one of my mother’s favorite nieces had her first grandchild. I called quickly, just as my mother would have, and sent a beautiful gift, schooled by my mother especially in her last years when I helped her execute the graciousness that was my parents’ hallmark.

But, I wondered then, how is it possible that just a few streets away there is joy without end, and my heart is so broken.

My mother taught me to be joyful but not “shout about your joy”—a Yiddish expression. I and two of three siblings married in our thirties and the two eldest married a month apart at ages 37 and 39. By then our mother had surpassed expectations for how long she would live with stage four cancer. When she learned that the invitations to wedding number two would be out before wedding number one, she asked for a pause for the ones to our family and friends. “Some people never walk their children down the aisle,” she said, “and I have been so lucky. I want Go-d to know my gratitude.” (the invitations waited until after the wedding.) 

 I thought about that today as I clicked to the compose section of my email. And for some notes instead of just saying “we’re grandparents!” I also reminded someone of the gift they gave the new baby’s father all those years ago, others of their close proximity to the baby and his parents and asked them to let the baby know what good friends we are, to others a bit of family gossip, slipped in between the birth news.

Did it do what I hoped—of making them a part of our news?

I hope so. The emails I got back welcomed the baby but also often picked up on the other parts of the notes, some with updates of their own.   

Oh, I have felt joy without end since last week—not just from the video his incomparable other grandmother sent me of him stretching his little arms and legs, as though inch by inch getting ready for the world—but from this lucky baby’s first Shabbat, still in the hospital, where his parents began teaching him the tunes he will sing in their home and introduced him to the weekly Torah portion. 

I have a whatsapp group that consists of a few close friends and our new baby got his due last week with just the right amount of  oohs and aahs. And while I so wanted to post that stretching video for our chat group,  I sent it only to two honorary great aunts instead—and got just the right measure of squeals. 

I look at our baby’s photos multiple times a day, stare into his eyes and hope he knows that at every hour I make a new wish for his little life, little heart, big, big soul. But in my head I have put a meter of exactly how long to talk about the new baby.

There is no measure on joy of course, and certainly none on mine, but I am an efficient reporter.  

Thank you so much for sharing our joy. Now, tell me, what is new with you?

The writer has asked to retain her anonymity to respect her children’s privacy.

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