In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New reader in the family

Dear Annie,

What a pleasure to have my sister doing a guest appearance!  Thank you Judy -- and Lorenz Graham was such a great choice.

Our extended family is celebrating the birth two days ago of Natasha, a new cousin.  Her parents were Amazing Wedding #3 last summer, the last of the magical family gatherings of 2010.  I'm lining up some of my favorite good-for-infants books to give her when we all meet in Maine in August.

Natasha is my first cousin twice removed, your second cousin once removed, and Eleanor and Isabel's third cousin.  That sounds so distant -- yet we're all so close. 

In honor of Natasha's arrival, I wanted to mention a grown-up book I recently received from someone whose infant daughter I babysat when I was in college. 
Morning Song: Poems for New Parents
was edited by Susan Todd, the mother of the now 40-something former baby, and Carol Purington.

Whenever someone I love has a baby, I think back to those first stunned, happy and intense weeks of parenthood.  All of a sudden, the world is divided into people who have children and those who do not.   Bob and I both felt we had become members of a not-so-secret society, all sharing this amazing reality.  The strength of that society's bonds was something we knew nothing about -- we had barely even known it existed.  Look! this person whom I've known for years is a parent.  She's been through the sea-change of becoming one, and I never realized it.  Morning Song is a welcome to the club.  Shakespeare, Yeats, Levertov, Atwood, Hughes (both Langston and Ted), Sappho, Billy Collins, Patti Smith, and many more are all here.  The poems all fit into sections, starting with love, conception, pregnancy and birth, then going through childhood and life.  They're all framed within a book about parenthood, but not every poem overtly addresses the parent/child relationship.  It's a collection to come back to as one's children grow.

Here's a celebratory selection, for Natasha:
Infant Joy

"I have no name: 
I am but two days old."
What shall I call thee?
"I happy am, 
Joy is my name."
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while,
Sweet joy befall thee!

         -- William Blake
When Susan sent me the book, I sent back a suggestion for volume two -- if she ever does another.  It's a poem by an old friend, Charles Douthat.  "The Hold" is a little closer to my place on the parenting continuum, but those first days with a new baby never leave us.



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