Springtime in Washington. I just can’t leave it alone, can I? As I walk (or drive) around town, I can’t resist being impressed by the beauty of it all. Right now it’s the azaleas that are the hot ticket, with their brilliant pink, magenta, red, white or even orange blooms. They’re eye candy, grabbing my attention and demanding my time. It’s as if they’re shouting, “Look at me! I’m so brilliant, so bright. So remarkable.” They’re like the 8 year-old in her fancy dress at her own birthday party. She demands that everyone look at her.
She shows off, even without doing much. We watch, we admire, capturing the moment while realizing that it won’t last. The girl will grow up; her innocence, spontaneity and sparkle will fade. Likewise the azaleas; their flowers will lose color and drop off, disappearing quietly and mysteriously. (Ever wonder what happens to those petals)? But, the bushes remain, growing up, sending out leaves, developing more branches, and plunging their roots deep into the earth.
This past weekend, I experienced another kind of eye candy. It was similar to the azalea bush in that its inception was bright, attention grabbing, and irresistible. And, it represented the stages of birth, growth, maturation and extension (i.e, sending out roots). It came in the form of a new nephew, just 6 weeks young. (He’s really my great nephew, but to avoid the thought of becoming a great aunt, I’ve chosen to drop the descriptor). Eli Theodore Rome is a big deal. He’s the first of the next generation – on the Rome side as well as on his mother’s side of the family. And, with plenty of doting grandparents, aunts and uncles near and far, he’s highly prized.
What impresses me is not just his birth, but his magnetism. Like the azaleas, no one can take their eyes off him. When he’s in the room, everyone sits around and watches him. Even though he does nothing in particular, all eyes point his way. And the conversation follows. It’s not that he’s the most spectacular or outstanding baby on earth (though he’s pretty good-looking, I must admit. Even for a baby…). It’s just that that’s what people do when they see babies. They watch them. They go out of their way to look at them. Even perfect strangers on the street will take extra time and make a point of looking into a baby carriage to see the face that’s poking out the bundle of clothes and blankets. Have you ever noticed that? It’s almost an unwritten law that when a baby is nearby you have to check it out. You have to grab that eye candy while it’s available. For the baby, like the azalea and the pre-adolescent party girl, will grow and change.
Will Eli become more ordinary, less remarkable as he grows? Unlikely. In fact, the reverse will happen. He’ll develop his own personality and character. He’ll say things, learn things, and do things. At times he’ll be funny, stage a tantrum, or call attention to himself for reasons good and less so. But right now, he just is – in his innocence, in his most basic and glowing form. Maybe that’s why our eyes are drawn to him. He’s an open book, with no agenda or need of judgment. (In this respect, he’s unlike the azaleas, as we don’t yet experience his full colors.) We just stare at him, appreciating this singular moment, knowing it will pass. But next year, and the following, his colors and brilliance will be even more obvious.
And one of these days, he’ll be staring at the 8 year-old party girl, too. And the azaleas, of course.