Welcome Ada Olivia Knoll
Grow Slowly, Sweet Babe — We'
re Not Finished with the World We'
re Making for You
by Sandra Olivetti Martin
In the first sight of just-born life, grandparents see other visions than parents do. Back when it was our turn to multiply and be fruitful, we gaped in amazement at what we had made. Thrust into our arms, those few pounds weighed us down with the burden of human destiny.
So it is good that having a new baby is 'like living with an angel,"
as my baby said after his first few days with his baby, Ada Olivia Knoll, borne by Elizabeth Weckback Knoll on March 23, 2005. Otherwise, Nathaniel and Liz might join a universe of parents shivering with terror at what they'
ve taken on. In fact, the new family is as happy as if they had good sense, as my grandmother Florence Bunting Martin would have said.
For grandparents, it'
s different. With the birth of my third grandchild — the cousin to John Alexander Knoll Jr. and Elsa Leigh Knoll, who live in Annapolis, not a continent away like Ada — I'
m catching on.
For us grandparents, past and future converge in those tiny, wiggling bodies. At that first close encounter, the lineaments of lineage wash over those round cheeks, button noses and rosebud mouths. It'
s as if you'
re drowning in genealogy, as all the faces from your past life take their moment upon this stage.
This phenomenon may explain why each side of the family sees its own images in a newborn.
Cheated of the biological link the rest of the grandparents enjoy, Bill Lambrecht hears the echo of his mother'
s name as he embraces this second Ada in his life.
s not the only stage on which we see the past unfolding. We'
re also retracing in days the epochal development of brain-driven life. Blessed to have shared all but the birthday of the first 10 days of Ada'
s life, we watch enraptured as the brain stem awakens so this infant can fill her lungs and stomach, digest her food and empty her bowels and bladder. Moments later, as Ada squirms and wiggles with life, higher regions of the brain yawn into awareness; her eyes open and within hours she can focus and follow.
At least as wonderful is the dawning of the great collective unconsciousness. The smooth, miniature features that have combined in this unique way crease now with the ancient expression that will serve her for anguish as well as gas. Now the brow smoothes, the lips curve, and Ada'
s parents delight in her smile. So do we grandparents, equally warmed by this preview of all the smiles we hope to share. Finally, she relaxes into the broad visage of perfect contentment. For my part, I am content to believe that she 'by the vision splendid Is on [her] way attended."
For what parent or grandparent can look on a new baby and not believe the truth that William Wordsworth captured 203 years and four days before this girl'
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life'
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come.
As for the future, hope and fear combine as we grandparents look down that tunnel from this fully present convergence. Looking into the future as a new mother, I carried the world on my shoulders. As a grandparent, I know with staggering clarity that'
s where Ada will go. What she'
ll find in that terra incognita has been made by what I'
ve done or left undone.
I want a far better world for my grandchildren and for yours. Getting there from here is the business I must be about, while I have world enough and time.