Thursday, July 05, 2012

Auntie R Chronicles: Halifax with Henry

I cried saying goodbye to Henry, after almost a week of close community with my wee 10-week-old nephew and his parents (also known as my sister and brother-in-law), sharing a Halifax apartment, simply being present for all his emotions and expressions. Henry’s daddy making our meals, walks to the neighborhood coffee joints, navigating a city without signs. (Seriously, Nova Scotia, what’s wrong with identifying streets and on-ramps?)

Landing at the Halifax Airport, the toddler in the aisle in front of me pressed her face against the airplane window, eyeing the miles and miles (or kilometers, this is Canada, after all) of trees, the stunning spring-green landscape dotted with the dark blue of lakes and rivers. "Is this outer-space?" she asked her mother, who replied, laughing, "No love, this is Nova Scotia."

 We drove many a kilometer about the province, visiting for our father’s wedding, wending our way to historic cities. We pushed the stroller through the colorful streets of Lunenburg, found gluten-free goodies and a friendly mid-wife in the small town of Mahone Bay, saw beautiful boats and peaceful nooks tucked into the lakes and bays. Not only am I seeing the world with fresh eyes as I explore it with a baby’s sense of wonder, but I’m seeing my sister and brother-in-law in a new light — the glow of parenthood, the care and tenderness they give to Henry, careful to meet his needs and anticipate and prevent any discomfort. The delight they show, sleep-deprived and drooled upon, from his squawks and gurgles, the books they read and forums they follow to better understand his developmental stages.

 Walking to the local café for our morning coffee, Henry's dad (R) and I see a man cross the street. I’m not sure if he is homeless, but overly-thin, hunched and harried, he does not look well. Spending time with Henry, watching the love and joy that naturally bubbles up in his presence, I’m reminded that each and every person was once a helpless infant who depended on adults to care for her, to meet her needs. R reflected on that heightened perspective he has as a new father, hoping that others were equally treated with that tenderness, the protective sense he has about his son.

If we could only see each other in that light more often, perhaps it would be easier to live in community, meeting each other’s needs, respecting different points of view, creating that true compassion which, as Pema Chödrön writes, "does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves, but from realizing our kinship with all beings."