Monday, December 1, 2008
Happy Birthday, Oliver
This morning, I was greeted by a newly-minted two year-old standing bleary-eyed in his crib.
Oliver has crossed the threshold that separates babies from toddlers in most people's minds. In his own, of course, he is no different today than he was the day before. Is it just my imagination, though, or does he seem to be growing leaner and longer at every turn? Is he rocketing toward the age of tantrums and willfulness with a little bit more steam? Is he returning our love with a whole new ferocity and awareness?
I know the story of Oliver's birth, and it is not the sort of thing that makes mothers misty-eyed with awe at the delicacy and function of God's creation. Instead, it is a story that abounds in the Lord's grace in the face of human error, arrogance and misstep. It is a story with cliffhangers and turns and pauses that make you gasp with their weight. It is a story where the happy ending--a healthy, developing, happy baby--is not guaranteed until the last possible page.
Oliver celebrated his first birthday while in the care of his cousin/former foster mom. I have several photos of the occasion; still gaunt, not yet crawling, sitting bare-legged in unbuttoned onesie and looking mystified at the goings on, Oliver is surrounded by a circle of biological family who desperately worked to heal the damage done to his little body and soul. There's a certain vacancy in Oliver's eyes in those early photos that is mostly gone now. I looked at the pictures today to confirm it. There ... just as he looks up at the camera. It's almost as if he's looking but not seeing. I remember that look from his first days with us, but it's been replaced by a wide smile and a clear understanding that shines through those baby blues. Sadly, he has the ability to shut this light off at the drop of a hat, and I fear that this will become a life-long defense mechanism that he will employ in his harder moments.
The defenses have been dismantled at home, however. He is fully Oliver, every minute of every day. Who knew that I would ever rejoice in a conversation that consists of hand gestures and nods? Who knew that the clinging, slightly too-long hug of a little boy would ever mean so much? Who knew that I would look on my son and think: "Whatever has happened before on this day--December 1 --I promise you, from this day on ... you will always be celebrated. You will always be treasured. And you, my son, will always be loved."
Happy birthday, Oliver. May you continue to grow in strength, in love and in the knowledge of a gentle God who has spread His wings over you from the very beginning.