Saturday, June 7, 2014

Who Does Your Newborn Resemble?

Meet Garrett Parker

Birth of a baby causes all manner of excitement.  Even though you have had 9 months to prepare for the big event, when the day finally arrives all of those plans seem to go up in smoke.  They follow that course because when a baby arrives everything that once was important suddenly becomes less important.  Your baby is what it’s all about now.

The birth of a newborn also sets in motion an enormous amount of speculation and most of it revolves around who the baby resembles.  Who among us has not been a part of the discussion about “Doesn’t he look like Jill?”  or “I think she has Ed’s eyes” or “Don’t you think she has Ellen’s forehead?”  Although I have never heard it discussed I’m sure that someone somewhere has speculated about “Don’t you think he has my great grandfather’s ear lobes?” 

Garrett Parker made his grand entrance into the world in a hospital in Alaska on March 21, 2014.  He was normal weight and normal length and he had a head full of thick dark hair.  When I asked his mother about him she told me that when he was first born she and her husband “thought he looked like an alien.”  Mom’s response reminded me of a similar conversation that occurred the morning after mom was born.

Garrett’s mom is my daughter Jennifer.  She made her grand entrance shortly after 10:00 p.m. one Friday night in early September in 1977.  It took Jennifer 16 hours to make that first appearance and when she did I looked at her with all that chalky looking goo covering her tiny little body and immediately checked her face, her fingers and her toes to make sure nothing was missing.  About the time I finished checking out my baby, the doctor announced that we had a girl.  As the nurses wrapped her in a blanket I looked even more closely at her.  She was all pink and wrinkled but to me she looked just like Jennifer.

At the time of Jennifer’s birth we were living in a very small and very drafty downstairs apartment of a house on South Main Street in River Falls, Wisconsin.  About two blocks from our home, at a major three way intersection across the street from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, stood Swede’s Standard station.  Through seven years of undergraduate and graduate school I always stopped at Swede’s for gasoline and for car repairs.  After all those years it seemed that Swede was more like family than the owner of a gas station and I wanted to make sure he knew about Jennifer’s arrival.

At mid-morning the day after Jennifer’s birth I stopped at Swede’s to tell him the big news.  As I entered the station I saw that an old English literature professor of mine, Zane Chaffee, was also there.  He was drinking coffee with Swede and discussing (but not solving) all of the issues in the world.

Excitedly I interrupted their conversation and made the announcement that my baby daughter had arrived just 12 hours earlier.  As a huge smile crossed Swede’s face he began grilling me about Jennifer: “Does she have Ruth’s red hair?”  “Does she have your nose?”  “Who in your family does she look like the most?”

Taking in all of his questions I searched for an answer and finally came up with one.  All I said was “Swede, she is just this little pink wrinkled thing.”   I then added, “If she looks like anyone she looks like herself.”

Zane Chaffee, whom I more than once said was a reincarnation of Mark Twain, blew coffee out of his nostrils and with a hearty laugh said “You know, Craig, you’re the first father of a newborn baby I’ve ever heard tell the truth about his child.” 

I haven’t met Garrett yet but I hope to next summer.  When I meet him I will check him out and with luck maybe take him fishing.  I helped his mom catch her first fish, an Arctic grayling, from a river on the tundra of Canada when she was 3 years old.  Maybe I’ll be able to help Garrett catch his first fish from an Alaskan river when he is a little over one.  I’ll tell him stories about his mom when she was a little girl like the one about Harvey the Hog-nosed Snake that his mom insisted had to sleep in her bed with her when she was four. I might even tell him the story of that morning in Swede’s gas station when Zane Chaffee recognized the truth about newborns.

There will be many things to show him and many things to tell him but the most important thing to tell him is that Garrett looks just like Garrett and nobody can tell him any different.

Welcome to the world.

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