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A Little Weird: Christmas Babies

By Eddie Whitlock

​ ​Christmas isn’t as cool as it used to be.

​Literally, it’s not.

​When I was a kid growing up in Griffin the weather was usually cool in October, when the county fair rolled around. By Thanksgiving, you were wearing a coat. By Christmas, you were usually inside much of the time because it wasn’t comfortable to be outside.

​Actual winter, late December to late March, was usually cold. No, not up-north cold. But cold for the middle of Georgia. Even though spring started in late March, we sometimes had an ice storm in April.

​As for Christmas, I don’t recall our ever having had snow on December 25. Christmas was often a rainy, cold day. If it was just cold but dry? Well, that was as much as a kid could reasonably hope for.

​These days, I’m wearing short sleeves in mid-December. Feel free to tell me there’s not enough evidence to say humans cause climate change. I won’t agree, but at least I will appreciate that you’re smart enough to know the climate is changing.

​This isn’t about weather. It’s about Christmas and the gift that keeps on giving: babies.

​Babies. I swear, they are everywhere, aren’t they?

​My daughter had one over the summer. It’s still a baby, I guess. It’s not a toddler because it’s not toddling yet. The baby is now doing the amazing things that babies do. This includes studying the world, rolling over, crawling, and attempting to get up and walk.

​So far, she has not spoken, but she does mimic speech patterns while making a variety of sounds. It’s what babies do. And it’s awesome.

​My relationship with the baby is limited right now. In case I’m not around down the road, I’m preparing envelopes for her to open at her birthday every year. They contain a note, a memory, sometimes a gift, and my signature.

​“What do you want to be called?” I was asked by friends when I told them about the impending arrival.

​“Grandfather,” I said, “but not just any old way. I want it pronounced like Katherine Hepburn would have said it: “Grahnd-fah-thah.” I even picture a delicate wave of the hand in my direction every time she says it.

​Grahnd-fah-thah.

​My friends assure me that what I am called will be the decision of the grandchild. They said I should anticipate something silly. I don’t know why they would say that.

​My daughters are logically keeping the social media postings about the baby to a minimum. I really respect that. I’m glad there was no social media when I was a new parent. I’m pretty sure I would have overdone it.

​Hard to believe, right?

​Anyhow, this new baby in my family is not the only new baby.

Once my daughter had her baby, I started seeing them everywhere. There are lots of them. A surprising number of friends who are on the other side of the “baby years” curve are having their first child.

That makes me happy because it defies the norm. Let’s face it: the norm may be normal, but it clearly has not had our best interest at heart these last few millennia. Deviate from the norm!

​My friend Mike’s daughter had a baby last week. That baby is beautiful, too. He has his father’s red hair, though I was a little surprised at the absence of a beard. My wife Joan says that thatmy expectation was a bit premature. Maybe so.

​Mike’s grandson is very much at home with his brother, a dog named Jeff. Photos suggest that Jeff is looking forward to adventures with this baby as soon as possible. It’s pretty awesome.

​My grandchild is at home with two sister cats, I should mention. One cat seems quite intrigued by the baby’s presence. The other, never much for socializing, keeps her distance.

​Another friend, Lauren, is having her first child. She isliterally in labor while I’m writing this column. I tell you, it’s an invasion of babies. Lauren’s had several false alarms and claims to be in her fourteenth year of pregnancy. The due date turned out a smidge unreliable.

​I remember long ago when the ob-gyn doctor gave us a specific date for our daughter’s birth very early on. Somehow, I thought he knew what day the baby would be born. Nope. The date he had given us arrived. There was no baby. At the appointment that day, the doctor simply said, “Oh, must have been off by a week.”

​I remember being shocked that the doctor was suddenly flippant about what I thought had been a due date. Libraries loan books with due dates, and they are not flippant. You can make all the plans you want, but don’t expect them to match reality, particularly in the timing department.

​When they do come, the fun begins for parents. By fun, I mean work. Right now, my daughters are working with the baby to develop a sleeping schedule. I am keeping my mouth shut because I remember trying to get my daughter on a sleeping schedule.

​Eventually, we agreed to do whatever the baby wanted. I see that in my daughters’ future, too.

​Like I said, babies are everywhere. It’s amazing.

​And now let me make a leap in this column.

​Let’s leap to Christmas.

​It’s Christmas in our culture, whether we have religious faith or not.

​I don’t, by the way.

​But do you know what I’ve decided that I do believe in?

​Babies.

​Every time a baby is born, there’s a new chance for this world. There’s a new hope – just like Star Wars told us there would be.

​The thing to remember is that the faith isn’t coming from the baby. The faith is coming from the adults who look at that little one and think maybe – just maybe – there’s some good stuff in the future.

​And if there’s good stuff inherently in those babies, we must admit that there’s good stuff in us, too.

​That little baby is an untouched spirit who doesn’t know the concept of limitations. The world is more than their oyster. It’s their Red Lobster All-You-Can-Eat Seafood, Salad, Baked Potato, and More Bar.

​What the heck happens to us? The world tramples us. It lets us know that if there’s a smidge of joy, it’s likely to be followed by a huge dollop of misery. It tries to convince us to spread the misery and ignore the joy.

​Usually, it succeeds.

​But then you look at that baby. You love that little bundle of hope so much you want to give it gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Myrrh, if WebMD is to be believed, contains chemicals that might reduce pain and kill bacteria. It’s a good gift, after all.)

​Babies are hope incarnate.

​Planting the story of a baby being born into the darkest days of winter is a good plot device. It forces hope in the worst of situations. (Okay. It didn’t work for the mom in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but still.)

​The arrival of a baby suggests that we still have hope. It may not come to fruition in this story, in this book, or in this lifetime. But it’s the hope that inspires us to tackle problems larger than ourselves.

​I won’t live to see climate change successfully addressed. You may not either. But if we have the hope that all those little babies are telling us we should have, we will get our cynical asses in gear and start working for a better future. Their better future.

Eddie Whitlock is a Georgia native, a graduate of UGA, and wannabe writer. He retired in 2021 from the Athens-Clarke County Library, where he worked as coordinator of volunteers, community service supervisor, and vending machine scapegoat.

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