Hi! I have news!
My first niece was born last night! So now I have a niece and a nephew. She was a large baby who debuted after a relatively short labor, and I know her name but I'm not going to use it here.
She doesn't know it, but she's been born into the family of a writer (technically, several writers) making her life the subject of public art from the beginning. I have mixed feelings about doing this, but obviously I'm going with the part of the mix that says to do it anyway. When she gets old enough to read her Aunt Caroline's writings, hopefully she'll feel warmed and welcomed by my attention. I always have by my father's writings. I don't know if he's written anything about his grandchildren. He doesn't have a blog.
She. A girl. The only thing I know about her, other than her name, is that she is a girl, and therefor a first for her immediate family, even if a somewhat less momentous first than her brother, who was the first grandchild on either side of his family. It's an odd thing, but although I am generally more socially comfortable with men than with women, and most of my friends are male, boys, male children, are something of a mystery to me. Perhaps it's because I had few male friends as a child, so I don't really know how male children work? But then, I had few female friends as a child, either. Part of it is certainly that when I think of maleness in the abstract, an exercise that must run to stereotype but might still have some validity, I think of things very much at odds with my idea of childhood. Largeness, for one; you people are nearly all bigger than me, and you have these big voices, and that does not fit very well with my idea of a baby. I do not personally look to males for protection or provisions, though neither do I generally fear male violence yet I am aware that boyish symbolism runs heavily to guns. I've seen the boy's sections of toy and clothing stores, and they are full of the symbols of violence. Guns, ninjas, superpowered red-caped fists, and the less obvious violence of fast cars, big machines, and bold, dark colors. So what is a boy, then? Abold, protective warrior in training and yet at the same time this sweet little person who initially wanted to call all animals, even fish, "goat"? I realize that such stereotypes have little to do with actual people, and I do not fall prey to them in my dealings with adults, but with a boy whom I had just met a little over a year ago, what else had I to go on? I knew no more than "boy." And now there is a girl, of whom I, equally, know nothing.
One in and one out. Last week a woman I knew as a girl, when we were in high school together, died. She had fought hard and long against brain cancer, and she leaves behind a ten year old girl. She was younger than I am. Her funeral was yesterday, though I did not go. I hardly knew her, and I remember less than I once knew, but her death is unsettling nonetheless.
I do not take it personally that she was younger than I--I mean, that her death is not a creepy reminder of my own mortality. I already know that I am mortal, and that while I do not expect to die any time soon, and I make a point of trying not to do so, I am aware that people can die in their thirties. I mind only that she did not have very much time, and that she left behind such a young daughter. I'm going to try to do something for the girl, not like it sounds as though she needs anything we can give--clearly she mostly needs something we cannot give; she needs her mother back. But the gesture might be some small comfort, and anyway the people I went to boarding school with persist in being a sort of enduring club, something like, perhaps, the bond that forms among veterans. Ours was a weird school, and ours is a bond of shared experience that no one else shares, and so it persists across decades. And so I think it might be good to turn this bond and face it forward, not back, to try to begin a tradition of sticking up for each other. This little girl will not be the last child of our diaspora to need help.
I did not go to this woman's funeral, but I was pleased, even comforted, to have the option. It bothers me sometimes that when I do die, the people I went to grade school with will not likely hear of it. I had very few friends as a child, as I mentioned, and those few I had have all drifted away now. I contributed to that drifting, and for the most part I do not miss my old school mates, nor do I suspect they miss me. But I grew up with those people, they were the boys and girls I knew, the people I saw every day, except on weekends, most of the weeks of my childhood. And I do not now know for sure that any of them are alive. I assume that at least most of them are. It would be strange for a few dozen people from the same school to all die young. I do not miss them, but I feel...less substantial, knowing that so few people who knew me as a child know me now. But at least there are people who know me now who knew me as a teenager--not many of them liked me, either, and while I think somewhat more like me now, that's not really the point. I'm not worried about people liking me, because generally people do these days. The point is that I do not want to be dependent upon being liked to me known. So if someone thought to tell me that this woman I barely knew died, perhaps someone will think to tell other people when I do.
Closer to home, and apropos of very little, I miss you.