Grandma turned on the oven to let it warm, then turned it off. She opened the oven door, placed a pan of warm water on it, and arranged tiny clothes, a small blanket, and a towel nearby. Everything was ready for my baby sister’s first bath.
Mother brought my sister into the cozy kitchen, paused, looked at Grandma, and said, “Mama, I’ve forgotten how to bathe a tiny baby. Could you please do it for me?” Smiling, Grandma took my sister, tenderly bathed her, and wrapped her snugly in the oven-warmed clothes and blanket.
At the time, I thought my mother was being silly. I knew she never forgot anything.
Twenty years later, when I delivered my first child, Mother came to stay with me. To prepare for the event, I had taken child-care and parenting classes. And when it was time for my son’s first bath, Mother stood by, letting me do everything perfectly.
A few months later, finding myself not quite as perfect, I was trying to remember what Mother would have done if she had been there. Then I remembered what had happened that day with Grandma. Mother had known how to bathe a baby, but she had also known of Grandma’s special love for babies. She had been thinking of Grandma, not of herself, when she had asked her to bathe my sister.
I was ashamed that my pride in my own efficiency had blinded me to what could have been a very special moment. From that day on, I was determined never to allow efficiency and expediency to overshadow another’s need to serve.—Loa A. Merrill, Cottonwood, Arizona