That’s how my mornings begin in these uncertain times. Eventually, I open my eyes. And behold the radiant smile of my 9-month-old daughter, Adira, welcoming me to a brand-new day. Just as we welcomed her not long ago.
That happened on a Saturday, back near the beginning of the global pandemic that has since ruled our lives. Because we lived in the Philippines where fathers avoid delivery rooms, I spent the last moments preceding that fateful first encounter in a hallway outside. And because those mean little microbes had already reared their ugly—yet strangely beautiful—heads, I sat festooned in a tight-fitting mask identical to those worn by attending physicians.
But when that magical welcoming finally arrived, I arose transfixed. Holding the new baby in my arms, staring into that round little face with its half-closed eyes the color of her mom’s, I experienced the familiar moment of wonder I have felt with each of my four children. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to the sensation of eternity; a bittersweet instant of awe at the miracle of life itself—the wondrous ways in which God and nature hold hands to create the unimaginable and renew it time and again.
My only regret was the bothersome black mask that hid the breadth of my smile.
The days since then have passed quickly. Adira has learned to crawl and raise her hands in the crude imitation of a wave. And her dietary habits have developed nicely; besides the ubiquitous mother’s milk, she now consumes soft cereal and crackers with a determination that inspires.
But the baby’s most fetching feature by far is her smile; a toothy, wide-open grin that melts my heart every time. She seems to exhibit it most generously on those mornings when, in true Filipino fashion, she awakens with her entire family all slumbering in the same bed. Then, squealing with delight, she explores my teeth like some probing future dentist or strokes my beard as if it were a thing of genuine wonder.
And that’s when I realize that, to Adira, everything is truly wondrous because everything is new. And I’m struck again by how much I’d love to see the world through eyes like my infant daughter’s.
All of which seems especially relevant on this cusp of a New Year. The one just past was terrible; many died, and those who didn’t lived in hiding and in fear. And yet, for me and my family, 2020 also saw the birth of a new child and, with her, new hope.
I thought about that recently while listening to the choir of Michigan’s renowned Hillsdale College singing O Holy Night:
“A Thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new,
And glorious morn.”
And so, I hope, shall it be for us all.
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David Haldane’s upcoming book of short stories, “Jenny on the Street,” is due out in January. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning author, journalist and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. His 2015 memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” explains how that happened. http://felixr28.sg-host.com
Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily