By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
My brother has a backyard that should be the envy of every tropical resort in Hawaii. No further proof is needed when you see his new profile picture on Facebook. There he is, sitting under his palapa, amid lush greenery, holding a drink that has an umbrella on it. Perfection! I know that he and his family enjoy their back yard immensely (and why wouldn’t they?!) but last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a baby shower there that was, by far, the best celebration I’ve attended in the “Sparrow Tropical Gardens”. Bob’s daughter, Dana, is eight months pregnant with her first child. For those of you regular readers, you may recall that Dana is the one that has had multiple heart surgeries. Three, to be precise. So this baby was not easily come by and is all the more precious for it. Last weekend Bob’s other daughter, Stephanie, and their best friend Kristin, hosted a baby shower for Dana and turned that verdant backyard into a pink, white and gray elephant-themed wonderland that should be on Pinterest. The theme for the baby’s room is elephants. I didn’t realize that elephants were so popular until I went shopping and discovered that they are a thing. There are elephant diaper bins, pacifiers, wash cloths, murals and pretty much everything else imaginable. In my opinion, the best elephant in the room last weekend was the cake, a magnificent confection of fondant and icing. It was truly a work of art and I worried that no one would want to cut into it. But luckily Stephanie is a girl after my own heart, who knows that good cake always takes precedence over art, as she sliced right through it.
There is something about baby showers that is so positive and up-lifting. Not that wedding showers aren’t also full of hope, but I have the say the last one I attended had a group of women off to the side taking the over/under on how long the marriage would last. Babies, though, are their own little miracles so we are all very excited about the new baby girl that will be here in a few weeks. I love these family events, especially because we don’t get together all that often. Certainly not as much as we’d like. I loved watching Stephanie prepare everything with so much detail and Dana laugh and have fun with each of her guests. It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating them coming into the world. How did they get older when I didn’t?! The whole event was spectacular, and true to form, I celebrated by eating TWO pieces of the elephant cake. Just to be polite, of course.
I suppose every family enjoys these milestone rituals, where we all stop to take stock of where we are in the circle of life. Which brings me to the other elephant in the room – the realization that my brothers and I are now at the top of the heap, generationally speaking. I’ve heard people describe this as being in the family “penthouse” or at the top of the escalator. No matter how it’s described, being the oldest generation brings with it lots of memories and a great deal more sentimentality. So between my heightened status and all of the comments I received last week about getting rid of things, I had a revelation. It dawned on me that I would be seeing all three of Bob’s children over the weekend. I thought about the family heirloom jewelry sitting in my safe deposit box, earmarked for them upon my death. How silly! Why wait until I’m gone to pass these things along? So I traipsed down to the bank, pulled it all out, and then wrote each of them a letter about the provenance of each piece, the oldest dating back to 1892 and the newest to the 70’s. So once the shower was over and it was just family and a few very close family friends, I read each of them the letter as I gave them their pieces. Although there was not great monetary value to any of them, the sentimental factor was very high and they all appreciated knowing “the rest of the story” behind each one. On the flight home I felt such a sense of peace – seeing their reactions to receiving these family touchstones was a highlight of my life. Their tears and smiles made a lasting memory that I will treasure forever.