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Birth Day

Three years ago today, I pushed open a heavy door with clammy, shaking hands. The dimly lit room was warm, the scent of antiseptic and exhaustion hanging in the humid air like a damp curtain. Drawn white shades over a large window hindered the bright light of a beautiful day. Five people followed behind me, their previously excited voices temporarily silenced. A single overhead light cast a soft glow over a bed surrounded by machines quietly beeping, their bright yellow lights blinking on and off like buoys encircling an island.

My daughter rested on the bed-island propped up by doughy white pillows; wrinkled sheets and rumpled blankets puddled all around her. She was dressed in a pink hospital gown, blond hair pulled back from her flushed face, hairline darkened with sweat. A contradiction personified, she looked utterly spent, bone-weary and beat, but beaming and blissful, her face glowing with a serenity newly won. Her husband was perched next to her, a huge grin at odds with his tired eyes and stubbled face. His strong arm was draped across her shoulders; her protective shield, her knight, her partner. With a nod of her chin, my daughter motioned for me to come closer and when I did, she placed a tiny bundle into my waiting arms.

“Hey, Zoe. Meet your grandma.”

I held my first grandchild close, her compact weight awakening memories of babies past. My breathing slowed and the acrid taste of fear trapped for hours in the back of my throat vanished. Zoe was wrapped in a soft blanket the color of new grass. My lips brushed the top of her damp head as I breathed in her new-scent, primal and sweet, like virgin earth. As I held her close, the sounds in the room—the rhythmic beeping of the machines, the excited chatter of people crowding around the bed, their hushed voices returning to full volume—faded away.

Zoe didn’t make a sound. Her wet eyes, as deep and dark as an ocean on a moonless night, were wide open and fixed on mine, intense and unwavering. Occasionally, she’d push her small hands against my chest, lifting her fuzzy head and tiny body up and away from me as if to get a better look at the strange woman staring back at her. Mirroring her scrutiny of me, I took stock of her: a mouth that was a perfect, pale pink bow; a nose the size and shape of a small, unopened rose bud. I traced my fingers over her downy head, her ears like tiny sea shells. I stroked her petite face, so soft and smooth, her velveteen skin warm to my touch.

Words caught in my throat. Attempting to loosen them, I swallowed once, then twice, before I realized there was no need for them.

Happy Birthday, Zoe.


  1. Beautiful – description – and some deep seated recognition of never having experienced that primal bond.
    Zoe is a lucky girl to have you as a grandma.

    • Thank you, but really, I’m the lucky one. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  2. No words. Just tiny tears of joy for you. Exquisitely written m.

  3. Utterly unique and universal.
    What a tender beautiful story 💝

  4. I am tearing up. You are descriptive in describing the scene that I felt I was there.

    • “Tearing up” is high praise for a writer–at least for this writer, and as long as it’s not because you’re sorry you read it! Thanks, Karen. I value your comments.

  5. That’s how I remember it too! 🙂

    • Thank you Kathleen. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever!

  6. Absolutely wonderful Jill! Your words remind me of the first time I met my granddaughter Alaina … now almost 10 years ago. What a blessing we have received in these precious grandchildren.

    • Before I became a “Jamma,” my friends with grandchildren told me it would be the most wonderful experience. I believed them, but I think they undersold just how great it is! Seriously, it is a joy, as you know. Thanks for taking the time to comment Jude!

  7. Jill, this brings tears. ❤️❤️❤️ You undoubtedly have been gifted with the Jarecki gift of expressing yourself on paper.

    • So many gifts come along with the Jarecki legacy. I’m honored to that you think I’m carrying on one of them. Thanks Mari!

  8. Beautiful writing Jill. I was transported right into that room and could see everything you were describing. How moving.

    • Thanks Gary. It was a memory I will always treasure!

  9. Thank you, Jill. Your beautiful words brought me back to the same experience, now almost 21 years ago.

    • How is it possible that they grow up but we don’t get any older? 😉 Glad I could evoke a happy memory for you. Thanks for commenting June!

  10. Happy birthday, Zoe! Your Jamma’s recollection of your birthday was beautiful.

    • Zoe says thank you Aunt Jane! Her Jamma says the same.

  11. Brings back priceless, treasured memories of when I first beheld the beauty of our son ( now age 53), ” surprise” twin daughters ( we were supposed to have one large baby – both now 48 – and each of our four grandchildren – now ages 6, 11, 12 and 14. In each case, a lot of dust must have been in the air because I had tears in my eyes.
    A life- defining, precious gift – that truly identified that which is really important in our life journeys.

    • I’m so happy that my writing inspired your trip down memory lane. And what a glorious trip it is. Enjoy!
      Thanks for commenting Dick. I appreciate it.

  12. Your essay is like poetry, Jill !

  13. I wasn’t planning on meeting her on her first official day on the “outside”, heck I live on the other side of the country. But our summer RV travels had us in the Madison area that very day and even tho “soon-to-be-Jammie” was giving us other five “GGs”, (Greenfield Girls), a play-by-play by text the night before, here I was, just a few miles away from the first of the next generation of GG progeny. Kelsey was the first of 14 offspring to call me Auntie Mandy, and here she was, leading the pack, again, like the Champion she has ALWAYS been. When I walked into her room, all the collection of Gmas and Gpas had left after their vigil and it was warm and cozy with all their positive vibes still awaft in the air- palpable. Kel looked like she was 10 years old, sitting on the bed with her hair in a pony and beaming like she just kicked the winning goal. Boy, did she ever! I held the Divine Miss Z, kissed her peach fuzz dome four extra times, as instructed from the rest of the Auntie Army, sang her a song, and had a few precious love-charged moments with our collective eldest, eyeing her handiwork, (Kyle, you two make some tasty cupcakes!), and soaking in the historic moment of seeing the next chapter unfold before my very eyes, beaming with pride and gratitude. And our next Warrior Princess has arrived. Good work J!

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