At the end of October, the world’s population hit 7 billion. Countries around the world celebrated this milestone with lavish ceremonies for their newborn infants. For us it meant that when we turned on our TVs or read the newspaper all we saw were adorable little babies.
And that’s what we see when we look out our windows. In both of our neighborhoods, we are getting to be the oldest people on the street. The little kids that our kids played with are away at college, getting jobs, moving out and getting engaged. Just like our kids (except for the engaged part). And young families are moving in.
The house next door to Ellen was recently renovated and sold to a young couple with a 3-month-old baby. Now Ellen spends way too much time gazing out her kitchen window at the new neighbors’ den – filled with a deluxe, newfangled stroller, baby swing, soft play mat and more. All those accoutrements we used to have…
We miss babies. Kind of.
We miss being able to hold our kids, pick them up in our arms. Ellen’s youngest is still a baby, in the way that teenagers can act like babies. But he is 6’4” tall and muscular. Hugging Andy is like hugging a redwood. Substantial, but not as satisfying as being able to sniff a baby’s neck and smooth their downy hair. Joyce remembers how when her kids were 5-months-old, she wished they could stay that age forever. They were so snuggly against her chest, so smiley and so immobile. Now, at about 300 months old, they’re still smiley – in the pictures they post on the computer from their travels around the world.
When you walk into Kohl’s, the first thing you see is the baby clothes department. The bright colors and tiny little outfits hit us in the kishkas every time. Most recently, the Thanksgiving clothing display featured adorable little brown and orange onesies that read, “I’m a little turkey,” and “Mommy’s little drumstick.” We wanted to buy them so badly even though we have no one who will fit in them.
Joyce has been buying baby gifts for friends who are welcoming their first grandchildren. Luckily, there’s a kids’ store around the corner from her where she can spend hours comparing the merits of a purple sparkle pajama set vs. a pink fluffy sweater. Looking at the delicious, tiny-sized clothes reminds Joyce of the brief window – birth to age 2 – when her children allowed her to pick out their clothes and dress them. That was when Samantha wore that black and yellow striped outfit with a bear embroidered on the chest – and it wasn’t even Halloween.
Our friends tell us that the great thing about grandchildren is that you can play with them and hand them back. We’re not ready for grandkids, but it would be nice to have one or two to play with now and then.
We have baby envy in an abstract kind of way. We know what raising a kid entails, so we’re not really serious. Our yearning ignores dirty diapers, the inconsolable crying and the childhood fevers. And, truly, we are not ready for our kids to have kids.
But it sure would be nice to pat some pulkes – the chubby, cute baby thigh variety — every once in a while. And it would be so sweet to touch a baby’s cheek (more gently than our grandmothers pinched ours) and whisper “shayna punim.”
That’s why we keep visiting the baby next door.