After learning of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court, the words of Jesuit…
Quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
When I was small, I was fascinated by a framed cross-stitch hanging on a wall in my parents’ home. I read the words over and over, even setting them to my own tune.
“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow … for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow … so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep … I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!!”
It was not until much later that I learned that the verses were a portion of the poem “Song for a Fifth Child.” And it wasn’t until well after that when I fully understood their true meaning.
My baby — is he still a baby? — turns 1 this month. His favorite things currently are quacking like a duck and roaring like a lion, throwing his arms up in the air at the word “hooray” and enthusiastically reading books to the point of their inevitable destruction.
Like most parents, my husband and I find ourselves stunned at how we got here so fast. “He’s so big!” we repeat. “Where did our baby go?”
Despite the rapid passage of time, I find myself able to look back on the past year with a measure of satisfaction at how we have managed our priorities.
Though I have been working full time, and my husband has been caring for our son and writing and editing from home in his “spare” time, we have tried to prioritize family life.
Despite the hassle and extra cost, they both accompanied me on four work-related trips last fall. We opted not to travel during the holidays, instead staying home and gratefully welcoming whatever family was open to visiting. We rarely turn on the TV, instead trying to savor every moment of playtime.
These were not necessarily difficult decisions, but they were intentional. Because babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
Was it the words of the poem, so ingrained in me from childhood and stitched into being by my mother’s mother, that has helped maintain priorities? Perhaps. But I think rather it has been the example of our own loved ones, especially our parents and grandparents, who taught us to cherish what is really important while we can.
And they continue to teach us. Michael’s mother has sacrificed vacation days to be on “baby duty,” and his parents frequently have visited for weekends. My own parents have made the long drive from North Carolina to Indiana five times (and up to D.C. another time) to allow us the freedom to focus on our work. We are eternally grateful for their support, love and witness.
Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of my mother, that beloved cross-stitch now hangs on my own wall. And in the moments of quiet, as I’m holding my oh-so-big baby boy close, I look at it and am reminded of what’s really important: family, sacrifice, love. And in doing so, I am able to shoo all that is yet undone from my head and cherish the moment. For I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.