Welcome to the world, Kayanna Rosalie
On the morning of the 16th, Alice's brother's wife's 22nd birthday, the phone calls started at 8 am, and continued through to the birth announcement at 6 pm -- she got the obstetric blow-by-blow from her 42-year-old (and only) brother. It started with "we're" in labor, a notion she finds rather odd. After all, he wasn't; she was. Big difference in the pain factor. But Alice will grant that if it's a harbinger, it's a good one. Next up, full dilation. Two hours later, Kayanna emerged.
Wednesday evening my brother emailed me a photo from his cell phone. (Love that modern technology. Don't have a clue how it works.) I know all babies are beautiful, but this one really is adorable. Did I mention Kayanna shares Alice's gene pool? In what she prays is a good way? Alice did have a happy babyhood, or so she has been told.
Alice's mother is happy the baby is healthy, but not exactly bubbling over. She said, several times: "I'll go [to visit] in April, when the baby is less of a blob." I wouldn't have expected her to say anything different to me -- but apparently she repeated herself verbatim to my brother, tact-be-damned. Her lack of enthusiasm is underwhelming. I suppose it's fear mostly: my brother has had three marriages fail, but none of them involved progeny of his own.
Still, it would be nice if my mother could at least be happy for Kayanna, for the genetic legacy she would not otherwise have seen. I used to say I wanted to be a grandmother, but I could skip the hands-on, character-shaping mother part. As an aunt, it seems I have my wish.
Physically, reproduction was not an option for me: this is a fact that I have acknowledged since I was about 18. First, there was the smoking. Not much later on came the antidepressants, and I wasn't willing to risk my sanity to continue to replicate a gene pool of depressions and migraines, one about which I was ambivalent at best. I gather my brother didn't let that influence his sudden desire, at 42, to be a father.
Truth be told, my brother and I watched the same movie that was my parents' marriage, and we reached different conclusions about whether to enter the theater again. I haven't crossed that threshold, and he can't seem to stop.
I am hopeful that he has walked across it carrying a bride for the last time. He has a child now, my niece, Kayanna Rosalie. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, he's in the game for good.
I've known my niece's name for as long as I've known her gender (i.e., since September or so, two weeks after my brother called to announce his girlfriend was four months pregnant).
Kayanna, per the web, is a variation of Kaye, an English name with no discernible meaning. Rosalie was my grandmother, whom my brother and I loved very much. She died in 1985, a year that major family upheaval was the norm. (Matriarch dies, her son goes to rehab, her daughter gets breast cancer, and those are only the headlines from June to November.) I used to go visit the cemetery on the date of her death.
Once, as I was getting back on the subway, I saw a rainbow (unusual for NYC, even for Brooklyn), which made me think she knew I'd visited. Since my dad died, however, I haven't made that trip more than once or twice. Next week will mark the 16th anniversary of his death, a date that never gets easier for me.
Rosalie, his mother, was a very strong, determined woman, who urged me to go "to business," not to stay at home being a housewife. My grandfather was a traveling salesman who didn't drive -- grandma did all the driving. She worked as an editor and proofreader in an attorney's office prior to marriage, and they wanted her to read for the bar (this was circa 1920, before law school was mandatory), but her parents wouldn't let her because they didn't want her to scare off potential mates with her education.
She also waited until she was 29 to have her first child, my aunt, and was 33 when my dad was born. She was the kind of grandmother who, into her 80s, could close down a bar at 4 am. She was good at a few things domestic -- baking, for example -- but better at delegating the details. (My father had a German nanny who took him to Bund meetings pre-WWII, until she was deported for being a Nazi sympathizer.)
Grandma Rosalie was also terrified of infants, and I was the first -- not my aunt, not my father, not my two older cousins -- to whom she gave a bath. So I'm glad her name carries on. Kayanna, well, it's unusual, and I know my brother's wife selected it, but I don't know why, or where she'd heard it. I'm not asking.
I'm about to search eBay for a sterling silver baby cup, then start finding airline schedules so I can see Kayanna sooner, rather than later. It is a singular occasion, I believe, that I will meet a child who will call me Aunt Alice. I'm looking forward to it.