The young couple, first-time parents in Philadelphia, can’t possibly know how many strangers have sobbed – with them, for them – over the past few days. Many of the anonymous sobbers got word via desperate e-mail: “Sorry for mass message … don’t know what to do … these friends … their baby … please pray, send healing vibes, whatever … updates on baby blog.” So we did – all of the above. And compulsively we refreshed our screens, hoping the baby blog would deliver good news – news that the skull fractures and bleeding suffered from a birth gone wrong would heal with no serious consequences.
The blog detailed, in pictures and words, all the pre-birth joy of the pregnancy: sonogram, news it was a boy, baby shower, 36 photos of a nursery lovingly prepared (chartreuse walls, bright striped carpet, carefully chosen pictures, stuffed toys, white crib, even access to a rooftop deck that showcased billowing clouds above the city). But when the update came, the news was not good. The baby had been alert and responsive immediately after his traumatic birth, but the bleeding could not be controlled; his brain registered no activity on EEG.
With sleepless father shuttling between hospitals – mother in one, baby another – these young parents were forced to accept the loss of a child they never knew, a child they loved beyond measure. The child lives on in memory and grief – of family, friends, and countless anonymous sobbers. But he lives in joy as well, his courageous heart beating in another small chest, sharing his parents’ love.
For the past two weeks, Alexis has made bread on Friday. Her first masterpiece was a loaf of challah.
Last week she took on the Tassajarah Bread Book.
This is possibly the best bread I have ever tasted. An hour after the bread came out of the oven, our pregnant friend Erin joined us for dinner and was a little taken aback by how easy it was to eat large quantities of bread before any semblance of a main course appeared. When it was time to REALLY eat, Alexis’s excellent rolls ferried Cafe Flora Curried Lentil and Quinoa Burgers (with tomato chutney) from our plates to our mouths. Erin enthusiastically accepted half a loaf of bread on her way out the door. We froze most of what was left, but raid the freezer each day to feed our new addiction. The big question: What will Alexis bake this Friday?
Dave and Alexis and I visited the Frye Art Museum, where we saw disturbing footage of modern Naziism in Hungary, awesome etchings of historical Egypt, and a beautifully spare and “voyeuristic” exhibit from the museum’s permanent collection. We went on to Photographic Center Northwest, where Ann Mitchell’s photographs of Val Verde were a spooky reminder of the Lindbergh kidnapping — something Mom mentioned to us frequently when we first moved to New Jersey (20 years after the tragedy). We knew that we should neither speak to nor accept candy from strangers, but the rationale for these proscriptions didn’t penetrate as deeply as a terrible sadness and sense of loss. Surely the Lindbergh’s toddler son, taken from his crib at night, had not engaged in conversation nor succumbed to sweet enticements. Today we learned that his grieving parents had retreated to this Southern California estate to escape round-the-clock media intrusions. The black-and-white photos show stately columns, manicured shrubbery, uninhabited rooms with tall beds. Even the ghosts seem to have gone elsewhere. It’s hard to imagine Val Verde as a comforting haven.