11 years ago today I was in Cambridge, MA still struggling to settle into a new place and to get a handle on a workload that seemed quite overwhelming as I surveyed the mountain of books and bound stacks of articles awaiting my attention. A one year master’s program was bound to be quite a challenge in and of itself, but the real challenge for me was tending my hurting heart that refused to stop aching as a result of the distance that separated me from those I loved.
My sister was expecting her second little girl the month following my leave and so as the weathered cooled and the leaves began to glisten awash in brilliance and crisp beauty I felt every inch of every mile that lay between us. I was called to say Ruby was well on her way and then again to say she had arrived. She was perfect and precious and all was well and I was thrilled with delight with that news, but the longing I felt to hold her was almost tangible. If only I could feel that sweet new skin and cradle her in my own arms the realness of the moment would be mine, too. From so far away, it seemed surreal. How could my sister be having a baby and me not there or at least on my way. I wasn’t scheduled to come home for a while so I cried.
I thought I had gotten my cry all cried out and that I was reconciled to the waiting that was unavoidable until I happened upon a new mother holding her sweet, tiny baby in the park on my way back from class and I burst into tears all over again. What a sight I’m sure I was just “crying like a girl” as Noah would say and couldn’t keep from it no matter how hard I tried. Thank God I had made a good friend who also had a sister, a niece and nephew whom she adored so she was able to provide comforting words of encouragement to help ease my pain. She was such a precious girl who became a wonderful part of my every day there, a piece of family formed through loving friendship that lasts even now all these years later.
So when I finally came home and was able to see little Ruby I had taken a terrible cold, one of many I had during that long year due to exposure to so many germs living in close quarters, a dorm of all things! I had to see Ruby but to see her I had to robe up and wear a mask to keep from exposing her to my germs. I was glad to do anything necessary just to get to be close to our new little girl. Oh she was and is so precious. Those beautiful dark eyes and hair, lips just like her beautiful mother’s and olive skin like her namesake, our Nanny, Ruby Parks Payne. Ruby was sweet and easy from the beginning. She was as quiet and easy as Grace was loud and hmmm, how should I say this? Difficult? Oh, now I’ve already written about Grace and anyone who read that must surely know I adore that child with an everlasting love and I have ALWAYS thought she was wonderful and she is, but she was very different from Ruby and they are equally perfect to me. I’m pretty sure they both know that too!
As Ruby grew, her little head began to sprout soft brown curls and she was slim and petite to go with her tender and gentle ways. She was so soft and small, smart and pretty. From the very beginning, I’m sure because she was so small and dainty, I just had this desire to somehow hover over and protect her. She was so trusting and loving and yet perfectly content to just be. She never insisted on attention or asserted herself into conversation (like our family was used to seeing with our kids). Instead, she just entertained herself with quiet play and smiled when spoken to. Simply precious…that is Ruby.
I’ve often wondered if these children in my life could possibly know how they have touched and changed my heart. With every one that has entered my life I have been captivated and they earn my allegiance the minute I learn they are coming.
When Ruby was only a few months old, her mom wasn’t feeling well and I was home on a break from school just dying to get some quality time with family, so they came for a few days and Erick and I had the honor of caring for Ruby during the night while the new mom rested. I will never forget Erick’s vigilance. He had never cared for a child so small and so when Ruby would wiggle and squirm Erick would dive out of the bed and slip her little passy into her mouth. I don’t think he slept at all the first night she stayed in the room with us and I couldn’t get the silly grin off my face from my amusement with his care for this sweet baby. It is with Ruby that he first learned how to hold an infant and he was beaming with pride when I would find him rocking her or preparing bottles for her. He was and remains to this day, smitten with little Ruby Doo.
When she was a little older, already walking and talking, she came back from time to time to spend the night here with her sister Grace. There is no other way for me to say how Ruby affected me other than to just say what I know. The child was so sweet she brought me to tears time and time again. She was content and cooperative and always quick with that sweet smile and her sweetness just captured my heart.
Ruby always adored Heather and loved getting to see Heather’s room and her pretty things and was often found cuddled up in her big cousin’s arms looking like all was well with the world in that loving embrace while Grace was my shadow getting much of my direct attention. I guess if there is anything I might need to say to sweet Ruby on her special day it is that I never failed to see, in the midst of all the excitement and business of life, just how precious and wonderful she is. If I could choose, of all the little girls in the world, the two that would be my nieces, I would choose the very same ones the Good Lord picked out for me Himself. He made the absolute perfect choice!
So on this day, in remembrance of Ruby, I wish her the happiest birthday yet and a year of wonder and excitement filled with learning and laughter. I would also like to say that the reason I am choosing to write as a way to honor these precious little ones in my life is because I am a word girl. I need to hear and see in order to know how others see me, how they feel about me, how it is that we are connected to each other and what about me matters to them. This is my way of giving, to the best of my ability, the love that I hold in my heart to these precious children who mean so much to me in the way that naturally flows from my heart…with my thoughts and words.
Written Lovingly for my sweet niece Ruby on her 11th birthday!
May all your days be blessed with joy, love, and grace and may you always know that no one shines brighter in your Anna’s eyes than you!