In my neck of the woods at this time of the year rain is a grey, ugly presence that would be snow if the temperature was a bit lower. It often starts slowly and insidiously. It drizzles and puddles for days. Rain turns the world into an ugly, sloppy mess melting what snow remains, revealing the brown, dormant grass and stark tree branches. Rain is not welcome in the midst of a Montana winter.
But, spring rain showers are a different story. They move in from the west like a good fairy, sprinkling the earth with nourishment, encouraging green growth and supporting life. We always feel refreshed from a shower. We breathe air that is softer and see that after having the dust washed away, the world is brighter and happier.
I’ve been thinking about spring showers lately, in part because I pass several “Think Spring” signs during the course of my day. I worry about these. It seems that the more of these signs I see, the more elusive spring remains. It’s a bit of a paradox, much like the groundhog of Groundhog Day fame. Doesn’t it seem a bit curious that a groundhog seeing his shadow heralds six more weeks of winter? Wouldn’t it make sense that if the sun was shining, spring would be on its way? But then I imagine Mama Groundhog disentangling herself from her babies to peak out of the burrow. A bit disoriented from a winter’s slumber she crawls a few feet out into the open and squints at the world through teeny slits. The bright sun glinting off the snow is just too much after a winter’s slumber. Turning back to her cave, she spots her shadow looming ominously. It really is all too much to take so she crawls back to her warm bed and her slumbering cubs after pawing blindly at the snooze button several times. Yep, six more weeks of winter. This makes total sense to me now as there currently is a blizzard howling outside my window with record lows predicted overnight. Those “Think Spring” signs continue to worry me.
In the long Montana winters we do try to have as much fun as possible and are ready for a party or celebration of any kind. And since we don’t yet have spring showers to look forward to, we make our own showers of a different sort. Last Sunday was niece Rachel’s baby shower and I happily returned to sister Joey’s house (aka “Party Central”) to celebrate the impending arrival of a new member of our clan. As the babe lay curled in his mama’s belly she was attended to by women friends and family. When Noel and I arrived he said, “I’ll just drop you off because I’m pretty sure there’s a ‘No Boys Allowed’ sign somewhere. He was right. A baby shower is about women and for women.
Showers give us a chance to eat wonderful food, chat, play senseless games and give gifts. Joey outdid herself with the scrumptious brunch food.
And again, we played absurd games involving hanging baby clothes on a clothesline while attending to both a baby and a cell phone conversation. Cell phones and hanging clothes on a line? It seems a bit of an anachronism, but who am I to judge? We cut yarn into lengths to guess the size of Rachel’s growing belly, and the
ice cubes for our Mimosas held tiny frozen baby dolls (I prefer not to even know what that was all about). But, it was all in good fun (except, I suspect the frozen baby part) and there was laughter and shouts of encouragement and prizes.
But as I often do, I found myself listening to the conversations swirling around me. Baby showers foster all sorts of reminiscing about childbirth and child rearing. The ladies recounted the births of their own children. “I was two weeks overdue. Those were the longest two years of my life,” said one. “No labor for me,” said another, “Cesarean section all the way!” I heard younger women with children in arms discussing the merits of nursing with older women who raised their families during a time when nursing was not in vogue. “We had rules when my kids were little. I had three children aged three and under. We had to have rules.”
Stories brought forth more stories. And through it all we validated our own motherhood through our memories and our anecdotes. We gave advice to Rachel, which I am sure she will find most helpful. “You know, dear, you really don’t need half of the stuff they sell nowadays. A few blankets, some clothes and diapers and you’re good.” I always have to tell at least one other person about coming home from the hospital with my newborn son, Joe dressed in borrowed baby clothes. We laid him in a manger…no, wait…that’s the wrong story. In reality we put him in a dresser drawer because there was no room at the inn. No, wait…I’m getting mixed up again. We had no crib. I had hand- sewn his diapers and his swaddling clothes (and that’s the truth). That fact always raises a few eyebrows with the younger set who only know a world of disposable diapers.
But, during the whole process I was reminded of my own children when they fit into those tiny garments and I remembered swaddling them in soft flannel and then kissing their downy heads. But most of all I remembered the awesome responsibility of nourishing this new, fresh bit of life. I thought about my own baby showers and the women, many of whom are now gone, who came to support me. They told me their own birth stories, they gave me advice, they played hilarious games and we laughed and we ate and we basked in each others’ company. I felt nurtured and supported and excited. I felt as if I was part of a much larger mission.
Showers are like that. They leave us refreshed and nourished. They support growth and newness. Women hold each other and pass on the wisdom of their own mothers. They give assurances at a time when a new mother is daunted by the task that lies ahead. There’s something magical about this process. A gathering of women at a baby shower is quite simply a lovely thing to be part of.
Rachel, dear. May you be uplifted by the circle of women who embraced you last weekend. May you feel nourished and may you be happy to support the life growing within your body. Please know that we love you and in watching you bear this lovely child we reaffirm our own motherhood. We wash the dust off our memories and know that the world is a brighter and happier place for our efforts to bring forth children into this world. We remember that we are all a part of a much larger purpose.
As Noel and I drove away I was reminded of a toast that goes something like this: “Strong women: may we be them; may we know them; may we raise them.”
Welcome to the world, little one. We can hardly wait to hold you in our arms and shower you with our love.