Today I found myself bumping along the worn gravel parking lot outside of a local K-mart. The boxed bassinet I had just purchased was filling the entirety of the child seat in my cart and Francis in his car seat filled the empty space behind it as we jostled and jumped along the old, cracked gravel towards our car. The day was hot and sunny and so I leaned around the big cardboard box to take a look at the baby- the package so large I couldn't even see him without craning my neck around the edge of it. He looked pretty unsettled as we bumped along. The street was more uneven than most and the cart was buzzing and humming with the sound of the metal on that pocked ground. I kept my eyes focused on him around the edge of the box as I pushed, cooing and shushing him as we rolled on towards the car. "We are almost there, baby, almost to the car, don't be sad..." over and over as I smiled reassuringly and kept his eyes on mine.
My first thought was, "This poor seventh baby..." always along for the ride with me, even in this hot, beat-up parking lot. He is such a good baby putting up with our crazy life- constantly awoken from naps and sitting in pee diapers way longer than any first child ever would... being nursed in the car, at the park, as I'm tying the shoe of a sibling, in the cold and in the heat.
And then I saw a bird's eye view of us in that moment as we bumped along with the cart and the box. That bassinet wasn't for Francis. He doesn't even have a bassinet. He has a moses basket on the floor next to our bed but he spends most of time on the bed, if I'm being honest. I've gotten used to that little perpetual drool stain on my sheets from all these babies over the years. And when we kick him out of our bed and the room he will move on to a little crib used by Clem, Pete and Joe before him, and from there to the run-down crib that Pete uses now. He will be the seventh baby to sleep in that crib if it doesn't fall apart by then.
The bassinet was for a baby released yesterday from a local NICU, for friends in a desperate emergency foster-to-adopt situation. You see there was a baby born, one month early. And while I bounced through the K-mart parking lot with his new bassinet in my cart, with my three-month old in his old, stained carseat, jostling along with me towards the car, I looked at my Francis and was overwhelmed with the awareness of how much I loved him. That he was loved. He was so deeply, deeply loved. Despite his hand-me-downs and his lack of stuff and his forever bouncing along with me as we bustle through the day, he has my love. And not only my love but Kirby's and his six siblings as well- not to mention our rich community of friends, his godparents, and his grandparents. In his home alone, he is deeply, intensely loved by 8 individuals. Who all want him... everyday. We all want him.
And he will have that, assuredly, for his entire life.
And then I thought of the baby for whom the empty bassinet was for. Born one month early and alone. God willing for not much longer but alone. And I was stunned in that moment at the frivolities of modern life. How silly and obsessive we can be over what we can or can't give our children. I've felt those feelings, too. Particularly at the start of my pregnancy with Francis. How can I give him what he needs with how much our life demands of me? With all the world tell us we've got to give? College tuition? After-school activities? Private school? Their own room? Toys? Clothes? Stuff??
In that moment in the parking lot under the sun, with that bassinet and my baby and his big blue eyes I realized that he has got it all. He's a king among babies. Because he is loved.
And, quite simply, that covers it.
All the superficialities that consume us as parents, all the demands we place on ourselves to give our kids "everything they need" or "everything they want"... it's all a fraud, wrought in our own consumption and insatiable thirst for more, better, more. It's conceived in the fear of our own failure and inability to love... again. It gestates in our obsession with cultural approval and wanting to avoid, at all costs, it's downward gaze at us and another one?! And the lie grows in us instead, and it takes up the space.
And more often than not, it keeps so many of us from the joy of giving our love away to another... to a new set of eyes to stare into in the K-mart parking lot, a new one to coo at and assure that the ride will be over soon, a new one to hold and to dress in hand-me-down clothes... and cribs... and things.
And, damn, are we missing out.
It's a reminder I need for myself- that despite all this there is love. There is always, always love.
And so we have it all.
And so we have all of it.