Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Destination: Baby

I'm in Maine.

As you might expect from my household, preparations for the trip east combined the tender drama of "Grey's Anatomy" with the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil.

Dolores spent much of our final day in Chicago on the telephone, trying to make nice with Barbara Bush, who was extremely put-out that we would not be flitting up to Kennebunkport during our stay. According to Dolores, she and Mrs. Bush crossed sticks during a field hockey tournament at Wellesley years ago and have kept in touch ever since.

"I remember junior when he was only this high," said Dolores. "I used to throw a blanket over his head and we'd watch him try to find his way out. Took him about three hours on a good day. Bar says now he can do it in under two if Condoleeza Rice stands nearby and shakes a bag full of Jolly Ranchers."

Harry, who couldn't join us because of an improvisation class at The Second City, presented me with a sampler for Abigail's room done in quite accomplished cross stitch. Over a picture of a bunny rabbit in an onion patch he'd worked the alphabet and a verse:

LIFE IS LIKE AN ONION.
YOU PEEL AWAY
LAYER AFTER LAYER
UNTIL YOU HAVE
NOTHING IN YOUR HANDS
AND TEARS IN YOUR EYES.

"I believe in telling kids the truth," said Harry. "Plus I thought the little bunny was totally cute."

"It's...crying," I said, peering closely.

"Life is suffering," said Harry.

I couldn't argue with that.

Mrs Teitelbaum came over and contributed a small but heavy package wrapped up in pink paper with little green kittens all over it and a tag that read FOR BABY FROM MRS T AND TINKLES.

"Do I need to worry about putting this through the security X-ray?" I asked, giving it a delicate shake.

"I don't think so," said Mrs Teitelbaum. "It's tomato paste. The nice government man on the phone said it's okay."

"Tomato paste?"

"I'm always running out," she explained. "But I can go to the grocery and get more. A baby can't do that. So I got ten cans. That should last a while."

"Indeed."

"I hope nobody else has already given her some. I know you have Italian relatives and whatnot."

"I believe they're all giving pasta and sardines," I said.

"Oh, well then," she said brightly, "I'm so glad I went with my second idea instead."

With all the baby gifts there was barely room enough in the suitcases for clothing. I had to resort to the usual subterfuge of locking and hiding my bags to keep Dolores from secretly substituting three extra hats and a kimono for my underwear and socks.

Meeting Abigail

She was sleeping when we got to the house, but shortly after she roused herself enough to hang out. They handed her to over to me, took a couple of photos, and then wandered off, leaving us alone together.

Uncle

I have precious little experience of infants but remembered that they like being sung to. I opened my mouth and realized that suddenly the only song I could remember was Bessie Smith's Gimme a Pigfoot.

Oh, what the hell.

By the time I got to They all congregates at an all-night strut, Abigail was gurgling and bouncing and we carried on nicely all by ourselves through two verses and a go-for-it encore.

On the whole, very promising. Tonight I'm going to see how she feels about Stephen Sondheim.

104 comments:

Lorraine said...

Lovely post! Enjoy your neice.

MollyBeees said...

The photo of you two brought tears to my eyes. Hold her close. They don't stay little for long. Tell Sister Sue I said Hey!

Barb B said...

Looks like she has good taste already. Great first song from the "Unc". My boys loved the one my Pop sang to them, roughly translated from Ukrainian "The Whore goes to Heaven". All about her adventurs.
For a guy with no experience, you are cuddling her just right.
BarbB.

rb said...

Oh, she's so pretty! You must be so proud.

Sherry W said...

Wow, she is really cute, and I'm not one to gush over babies.

Stacy said...

Abigail will realize one day how lucky she is to have an Uncle Franklin in her life. We all know it already.

stash haus said...

OMG! What a great post and what a wonderful photo! And I SWEAR she is smiling - keep up the tunes.

rams said...

You sentimental soul. Keep singing it and we'll have grounds to hope she holds forth at Show and Tell some day. I can see the ripples spreading -- "Elmo Sings Ma Rainey." "Wee Sing Fats Waller Around the Campfire."

Anonymous said...

Posting for KA who is currently in the hospital, but she wanted me to say "have a great time with that lucky lovely little baby!"

And please send more pictures!

JoVE said...

She is beautiful. I'm sure Sondheim will be fine.

Janet said...

Thanks for sharing Abigail with us - she is lovely!!!!

Rabbitch said...

Oh how lovely that picture is.

I couldn't remember any baby songs when my E was small, so I sang Patsy Cline while walking the floor for hours. Around the third hour I was droning "wuhreeeee, oh why the fuck would I wuhreeeee ..."

I'm saving for the therapy as we speak.

Hold her close; they grow up too fast. (although the next stage is fun too!)

Donna in VA said...

Keep singing the non-traditional baby songs. Every child should have a wide exposure to music.

MonicaPDX said...

Yep, Abigail certainly looks very happy in her uncle's arms. I'd say you're a success - and you wear her well!

So, are you or her mom going to let her hold her first knitting needles? (Dolores and Harry, oh my lord. I keep thinking of references to the Grimm Bros. for some reason... ::snicker::)

Andrea Rusin said...

You know to snuggle her close, hold her head, and sing a song. Not much else to know at this point.... She's a lucky little peanut.

Lothlorian said...

I need to stop coming here...its making me broody!!!

alala said...

She does make a fantastic accessory, doesn't she? Congratulations.

Sarah said...

Good job Uncle Franklin.

And what baby doesn't need 10 cans of tomato sauce, I mean really.

She is a doll. cute. too cute.

Erin Kelly said...

She is a total cutie! Your Sister should be very proud. May I suggest 'Every Day a Little Death" from A Little Night Music for a Sondhein selection?

Anonymous said...

Dammit - and I'd happily decided that 2 kids, a healthy one of each, was plenty, and that I'm enjoying having small children who can have intelligent conversations with me, and I'm soooooooo glad that the baby days (or rather the baby sleepless nights) are behind me - and then I see a picture like that one, and all of a sudden I feel like perhaps I do need another one...

AlisonH said...

What a beautiful photo!

Kristy said...

What a beautiful little girl! Congratulations to all of you!

Lynn in Tucson said...

That is one sweeeet baby!

Last night my 4-yr.-old asked for a love song before bed. While I searched my brain she said, "Mom, you know 'The First Cut is the Deepest!'"

Oy. They grow up so fast.

Laura in NC said...

She's is just too cute! Sniff a little baby smell for me!

I have something in common with Rabbitch. The only song my son would quiet to as a baby was Walkin After Midnight by good ole Patsy. Occasionally he'll still snuggle up to me and ask me to sing it.

LesleyD said...

She's Adorable!!! If you ever blank out on a song to sing, just sing Can't help falling in love with you by elvis. Just the chorus will work. That's what I do when I have a lulaby brain fart.
:-)
"As the river flows,
gently to the sea
darlin so it goes
some things were meant to be
Take my hand,
Take my whole life too
I can't help falling in love with you."
You can do the UB40 version too but you may be tempted to start singing "red red wine".

--Deb said...

Awwww . . . ! You two look perfectly happy.

Oh, and I used to sing Gershwin to my niece when she was born. "Our Love is Here to Stay" was just about perfect.

Windsornot said...

Abigail is so gorgeous! And it's nice to know she has the same hairline as you. ;-) Just playing! That's a superb photo to share, and one that you should print out and display at home.

If you are thinking Sondheim, one of my favorites, which practically is a lullaby, is "Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd. If you listen, it really is all about protecting someone you love. :-)

KellyD said...

Franklin, She is amazing. Babies are so perfect in every way. Of course I had a friend who said he didnt like them much because they leak at both ends. Go figure.
You make a great uncle. And I can see how she will have many adventures with Uncle Franklin.

Sid Leavitt said...

Before I wound up in New York, I lived in southern Maine for a number of years, working as a reporter for the Portland Press Herald. I also met junior, although he was a bit taller than Dolores remembers, and I recall him as rather smug and snotty. Sort of like he is now.

By the way, your niece is adorable.

Jennifer said...

What a beauty she is! Enjoy your time with your neice.

Tara said...

What a beautiful little girl. I don't even know her and she made me teary. :) Congrats! :)

Paul said...

That is a most precious picture - she's a little sweetheart. Enjoy your time with her and your family.

I totally love Erin's suggestion of "Every Day a Little Death". One of my favorite Sondheim duets.

Ruth said...

Awwwww! What a gorgeous babe, and how astute in her choice of uncles!

My husband sang RAF drinking songs to our daughter. I took him to an Anglican church one day, and he was shocked to discover that all those tunes had other words.

Cherice said...

Oh what a beautiful beautiful baby. Non traditional songs are the best. In college I had to explain to a teacher (of childrens literature) that I grew up reciting "The Raven" and therefore, regardless of what she said, "The Raven" was my favorite childrens poem (she said my family is odd)

Aidan said...

Ah yes, how I miss my dear grandmother's voice singing me softly to sleep...

If I close my eyes I can hear her yet...

"Gimme a reefer and a gang o' gin.
Slay me, 'cause I'm in my sin.
Slay me 'cause I'm full of gin."

Good times...good times.

mary said...

She is absolutely gorgeous, and I can see your blissful expression through the back of your head. Really!

knititch said...

it is the beginning of a life long love, devotion and hopefully a lot of happiness and fun. you have no idea how happy i have been with my nephews and nieces and now my great nephews and niece. it is such a privilege and happiness. i totally understand your bliss and it just gets better!!!!

lynette said...

what a lovely post and an adorable picture. just beautiful.....

Petunia said...

Hold that beautiful baby, to insure that new mama gets all the rest she can get. Mama, take advantage of the loving uncle while you can -- mother of 3,grandmother of 5.

Victoria said...

looks like you are well on your way to becoming a fantastic uncle....

gorgeous picture!

LaurieM said...

Uncle Franklin, I think you'll do just fine.

Diane said...

Precious little experience with babies? Couldn't tell by the picture. How precious.

Helen said...

Since you clearly know that she's adorable, I won't waste bandwidth telling you.
Do leave some yarn in Maine for me though, I'll be heading there at the end of the month and don't really want to discover that you've beaten me to my favorite shops. (Have you been to Halcyon yet this trip?)

ccr in MA said...

When my cousin's baby was fussing and only singing kept him calm, I drew a singing blank. The only thing I could think of all the words to was the national anthems, US and Canadian (in English and French). (I'm a hockey fan!) He didn't seem to mind.

She's lovely. Have a wonderful time.

Country Mouse said...

Sounds like you're well on your way to being the Fabulous Gay Uncle we all wish we had. Congratulations — to you, to your family, and to Abigail herself for having the luck to be born into such a loving family.

Carol said...

Crap, that photo made me misty.

So did thoughts of Dolores and Bar swilling maitais in Maine.

Miss you! Glad you're enjoying the bebe. Hope Sister Sue is getting some SLEEP.

canknitian said...

She's a beauty! Enjoy your visit!

Carina said...

My kids loved any Broadway songs when they were babies. Their favorites to get to sleep, though, were the hymns from church (Greek Orthodox in Greek of all things). Maybe chanting while rocking? I'd bet it would work.

Scattered Gemini said...

Well, looks like you have that all under control. Nicely done, Uncle.

My, my she is certainly a beauty.

NeedleTart said...

The lull-a-bye from "Apple Tree".
Close your eyes, whatever you are.
Lay your head on my breast.
Doesn't faze me, what you turn out to be,
Pony or poodle or sheep.
You're my own whatever you are.
Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Crochet Goddess said...

Wonderful picture. I hope you have a great time.

Kathleen said...

Congratulations to niece and uncle. You are both very lucky to have one another. She is a beauty. Enjoy Maine - your trip prep sounds a hoot!

Anonymous said...

That is one very beautiful baby.

My grandma used to sing us a song:

Clap hands, clap hands
til daddy gets home
cause daddy has money
and grandma has none

It may have been a translation of a traditional song, or not, but I've sung it to many babies, in many variations, and they all love it.

Enjoy your visit. It will be all new the next time you see her.

rosesmama

anne marie in philly said...

awwwwwwwww, uncle franklin!

that little miss doesn't know that for the next 18 years, she is in for the ride of her life. uncle franklin will teach her wonderful things like french and opera and show tunes and knitting.

dolores, on the other hand, will want to teach drinking and smoking and pick-up lines and stripping.

hmmmm, you make the call...

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Can that baby take a bad picture??? I don't think so! Lucky, lucky Uncle Franklin.

Jess said...

Oh, so beautiful. I love the image of you singing Bessie Smith to her - exactly the sort of song you'd never expect a baby to love but they always do. I hope she enjoys the Sondheim as well!

DK said...

Oh, dear God, she's adorable! And dude, she has way more hair than you.

For the record, I once sang my nephew a chorus from Naked Boys Singing. Don't tell his mother.

Kate

Barbara-Kay said...

Ah, will you be placing the knitting needles in her hands for the first time? I believe you qualify as a sufficiently master knitter to do that job.

Misstea said...

I'm sure you've heard this before. Being an Aunt rocks. I'm pretty sure that being an Uncle isn't much different.

I wish you and Abigail much happiness, together and separately.

Lee Ann said...

I sang mine Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Also, John Lee Hooker.

I believe I might have sang "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" as well, but there's no evidence and I'm not admitting anything.

Sharon J said...

Dolores, Harry, Mrs. T and now Abigail. Life is rich in both your worlds! Enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Can't really go wrong with Cole Porter: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, Do I Love You, True Love, From This Moment On
Well, maybe not Miss Otis Regrets or Too Darn Hot just yet.
It doesn't get any better than that picture. And how great that your sister and brother-in-law are willing to share! Sue F.

lizbon said...

Oh man, I love that song. And I can reassure you that not one of my three, count 'em three nieces (I am such a lucky woman) has seemed to suffer any ill effects from me singing them highly similar fare.

And may I say, what a perfect little face Abigail has.

Ann said...

She is tremendously beautiful.

Terri Lynn said...

I think the 'Awwww' says it all about the baby picture. So precious. One thing my son liked when he was tiny until he was too cool for me (thank heaven that passed) was Poe's poem about bells. The only thing I can remember is a line that went "the tintinabulation of the bells bells bells" or something similar. Something about the weird rythm of the poem made him so happy.

Kathleen said...

Oi, I'm completely plotzing over here. MANY congratuations, Uncle Franklin - enjoy.

Mama Llama said...

Oh! My ovaries! She is lovely enough to make me want another. Enjoy her, she won't be this tiny ever again, and soon she'll be telling you what she want's to hear you sing to her.

Sarah R said...

Oh man. Everyone's said it far more eloquently than I, but what a beautiful baby and what a great photo.

And I love Harry...and his sampler.

But now...yarn shops? Maine? I'm going to be there in August and will be driving from the Portland airport to the very eastern tip of the state. Any shops I should make my family suffer through?

Cheryl said...

Of course she's going to love Sondheim. What girl could resist a sensitively-wrought rendition of "Pretty Women"? Although if you are willing to branch out, I recommend "I'll Never Say No" from The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Violetsrose said...

"Abigail will realize one day how lucky she is to have an Uncle Franklin in her life."

I think that day was probably Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"I can see your blissful expression through the back of your head."

Exactly what I thought when I saw that picture!

You (and she) are both darn lucky - make the most of it big guy!

Marlena said...

You know how people say that all babies are beautiful? I believe there is truth in that, but when I say your neice is a beautiful baby, I mean it in wee bitty supermodel way, or actually more refined than those paper eaters... in a John Singer Sargent way, in his beautiful painting of the sisters.

Tracey, in MI said...

baby feet/toes- the most beautiful thing in the world----well- cept for maybe baby hands/fingers...

Couldn't help but notice the likeness between you--- especially around the very high foreheads;)

hmmm my husband decided to sing the theme to "Gilligan's Island" to our third son...it became "their song" (He was a surprise- 12 years after our middle son, apparently he'd run out of sweet baby songs!

KnitNana said...

What a great photo! Congrats, Uncle - you're a HIT!
(And I'm still chuckly about "Jr." and Condie!)
(((hugs)))

Kara said...

You never fail to crack me up! Congrats on the little niecelet. Being an uncle (or an aunt, in my case) is so much fun!

Wily Jeneric said...

Just perfect. The picture, your niece, singing. Rest assured, she'll be the uncle she runs to when Mom is absolutely not. being. fair. Congrats!

Lauren said...

Nothing like a wee bairn to make your heart go pitter-pat, especially when sharing an awesome tune.

Now back to business, if I shoot you a bribe, will you send me the pattern for the Glencora shawl? Pretty please with no onions on top?

FiberQat said...

"Not While I'm Around" is a good choice. And if you're in a subversive uncle mood there's "A Little Priest" from the same play.

I rocked a grandniece to sleep humming "Sidewalks of New York". It's a nice walking waltz.

v.j. kohout said...

I understand that your experience with newborns is limited; mine, on the other hand, is not and I am telling you Abigail is very, very pretty. Not all babies are.
And holding and singing is very good. At this age, you can sing about "The Whore Goes to Heaven" (see barb b said's comment)she will not remember. Enjoy, she will grow very fast. vj

Tippymarie said...

LIFE IS LIKE AN ONION.
YOU PEEL AWAY
LAYER AFTER LAYER
UNTIL YOU HAVE
NOTHING IN YOUR HANDS
AND TEARS IN YOUR EYES

Can I get that on a t-shirt?

Aren't newborns just the sweetest? My grandbaby was born April 24. She still smells fresh.

I hope everyone is doing well and that Delores is behaving. Don't you let her smoke around the baby.

Deborah C. said...

She is lovely, Franklin! I never sang baby songs to my 3. I sang Mozart (arias from Le Nozze di Figaro, my favorite opera), Scots folk songs and Cat Stevens. Nothing like having a broad range...LOL

Michelle said...

Hey, your musical choices could be worse - when I was babysitting recently I couldn't think of any songs to sing except Abba's "Dancing Queen". (It worked, though!)

=Tamar said...

Beautiful, beautiful baby.

My niece napped to the gentle sounds of "Sgt Pepper" and "The Doobie Brothers," back in 1967.

Heather Shaffer said...

She is a beautiful baby, to be sure, but seeing the picture of you holding her stimulated rather more carnal impulses. Am I the ONLY one who was thinking "Damn, Franklin looks so f*c&ing HOT holding that baby!"??

Yes I'm a mommy, with 3 of my own, so I am not immune to the allure of a sweet smelling little potato...which reminds me of the little song my ex used to sing to our firstborn... something like

You're my little potato
You're my little potato
I dug you up
You come from underground... he sang this while doing his tall white-boy dance that looked like he was doing knee bends.

I think it's James Taylor

I sang "You are my Sunshine" and

Go to sleep little baby
we must cover your toes!
Go to sleep little darling
And you'll turn to a rose.

Congrats to you and your family Franklin, you hot uncle you.

Anonymous said...

Awwwwww! That is one BEE-yootiful Baby! I'd say more but I'm still choking/laughing about the image of Delores throwing a blanket over Geedubbya, Jr.'s head...hee!

Kim U said...

Awww, y'all look cute together! ps Loved the onion verse and the crying bunny :)

anneonymousone said...

The picture stole away my heart.

PICAdrienne said...

What a wonderful sight. You two look wonderful together. And, it really doesn't matter to her what you sing. The phone book would work. You are a lucky Uncle and she is a very lucky baby.

Anonymous said...

What a delight - all of it! And don't forget to teach her some Lily Allen songs (my daughter loves them).

debsnm said...

So precious! And look! The same hair-do!

Megann said...

What a precious and beautiful bundle of joy. I love her name. Enjoy being an uncle. How young is too young to learn how to knit? The only bad thing about all the darling pics of her is that it makes me want another baby! Oh no!

Tasha said...

What a beautiful pic of you and Abigail. You look like a natural. And Abigail will love anything you sing, just as long as you sing. Babies are wonderful that way. My girls always loved Oh my darlin', Clementine. And that's not really kiddish material with the drowning and what not.

Liz said...

Congrats again.

My experience with babies is that they like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Which may be why, when the Christmas pageant at school had the kiddos singing Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my child somewhat scandalized the assembled by launching into an impersonation of Dean Martin.

Deb said...

I will admit here that my favorite little tune to sing to babies is a Pabst Blue Ribbon jingle from the '70s. Scary but true.

Kristen said...

Oh how wonderful, Uncle Franklin! And yeah, at this point, so long as you sing it in the right tone, they don't care. I was once babysitting my cousin's child and I wound up just saying anything that came into my to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It worked.

Arsie said...

Babies love singing. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it doesn't hurt they're ears they love it.

Eventually they become critics though. ;)

The first song I sang to my son was.. Every Rose Has It's Thorn by Poison. Seriously. It was the only thing I could think of after 17+ hours of labour and many drugs at 3 in the morning on Christmas. I just sang the first verse and chorus over and over again to him until I finally fell asleep myself.

He loves the song still, and if he's crying and I sing it helps to quiet him, so what can I say?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't get past the first three paragraphs without scrolling down to comment ...

and then I saw the picture. Beauty and love and promise. But above all, love. That's what we should live for.

Congratulations to the new mom and dad, the new grandparents, and you. May your niece experience the joys of passion and wisdom.

Jena the yarn harpy said...

What a beautiful little girl!

StarSpry said...

What a beautiful picture :)

Flavaknits said...

Just steer away from Barney (Hate, hate hate - kids love love love) , and any of his little ditties.
Baby is gorgeous, (so broody), enjoy, soon you'll be throwing her up in the air , causing the parents much anxiety!
PS. He-man is straight speak for SLOB!

Kathie said...

Wow...that is one beautiful baby.

Robin said...

You look quite comfy as an uncle! Both are beautiful - Glencora and Abigail.

Yvonne said...

I love that picture. Abigail is such a lucky - and lovely - small person.

Lauren said...

It's me again, Lauren, the one who begged you for the Glencora Baby Shawl pattern. I'm in huge baby love right now, wanting to make things for children unrealized as well as children impovershed. I just wanted to let you know I love what you do and I found a great christening shawl pattern in "Folk Shawls," which shows an elderly Irish woman holding a wee bairn in a lovely shawl designed for that purpose. Although I raise Shetlands, I bought a Merino fleece and am carding it in preparation for the shawl I will make (hopefully). I plan on dyeing it pale yellow with the natural cream as a border and you are my inspiration so thank you very much. I just wanted to let you know how awesome you are, Franklin.

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