February 17, 2004

The perfect baby gift

Filed under: Art and About Family — admin @ 3:35 pm

Our first nephew, Nathaniel Terrence, was born February 9 and my husband and I are ecstatic to become an aunt and an uncle. For years we have envied our siblings’ relationships with all their various nieces and nephews. It seemed like they were all having such a good time. We finally get to experience this special relationship from the inside.

At the baby shower for my sister-in-law, Heather, I got to see the quilted bedspread she made in honor of the baby. She called it “an attempt” at quilting, but it is much more than an attempt. It is a beautifully vivid patchwork piece in a pattern of geometrically-inspired tulips. The same tulips are stenciled as a border on the wall of the baby’s room.

I admired the quilt because I loved the use of color, I loved the pattern, and I loved the quilting. I’m the type of person who likes to finish a project in one weekend before I get bored with it, so the patience it takes to quilt a bedspread is something I am awed by.

My brother-in-law, Mike, also is artistically represented in the baby’s room through a wonderful bedside lamp in the shape of a pump. Pull the pump handle and the light goes on and off. Very cute. He made it in junior high, but when he found it in his parents’ garage, he realized it would be perfect for the baby. And it is.

I left my first viewing of the nursery feeling like all was right with the world. A new life is coming into the family, and his parents are welcoming him with a hand-crafted room. What a gift of artistic expression! It wasn’t until I was reflecting on the room a few days later that I was struck by the profound human compulsion to create art while we await a newly created life. Parents often decorate a baby’s room themselves with colors and patterns they would never dare try in the living room. Parents who have their reasons for not decorating the room themselves hire someone to bring a creative eye and hand to the baby’s room and let loose with a design that would never be allowed in the living room. Babies seem to unleash a creative freedom in us. It may be part of the “nesting instinct” expectant parents are supposed to exhibit. Wouldn’t it be interesting to prove that artistic expression is an integral facet of nesting?

When Heather made her quilt, she was doing something new mothers have been doing for eons and generations. Of course, there used to be a practical need to make a quilt to warm the baby. But now, we can buy a fleece blanket at Macy’s for an iota of the effort it takes to make that quilt. But Heather chose to make the quilt, distilling the purest expression of her love through art.

Fathers make pump-lamps, grandfathers make cribs, grandmothers craft Christmas stockings, great-grandmothers crochet blankets, uncles paint pottery, aunts create cross-stitch banners celebrating a child’s names and birthday, best friends knit baby bonnets. No doubt your child has something handmade by someone near and dear to the family that is unique. When I was born, my grandfather made two guardian angels for me through his mosaic art. He died five months later, but those angels have hung in my bedroom, wherever I have lived, for 32 years. Through them, I see my grandfather every day.

I know my kids were richly blessed at birth with handmade artistic gifts from those closest to them. They, with their new cousin Nathaniel, are surrounded by a pantheon of artistic guardian angels.

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