An Ageless Tradition

Balloons were drifting around, bumping against the ceiling in my living room, buoyed by helium and the generosity of friends. The previous weekend, they had thrown a baby shower for me. It may have been the first time in history that a woman in her 70s had a baby shower. 

No, I wasn’t pregnant, but Tara, my 45-year-old stepdaughter, was expecting her firstborn and the baby was considerably overdue, which worried me. Unfortunately, I lived too far away to be any kind of help. I’d talked about this with close friends in my retirement community.

As time dragged on, one friend announced that she was going to have an afternoon tea on an upcoming Sunday. “Just to lighten the midwinter gloom,” she said. On the day of the tea, I boarded the elevator in the building where we all live, hoping for coffee instead. I was five minutes late, as usual, when I opened Jeanne’s door.

Voices shouted, “Surprise!” I was dumbfounded. Jeanne’s apartment had been transformed. A bevy of pink balloons bobbed in the draft from the door. A table had been laid with chips, dips and a gorgeous cake, along with a raft of presents. Had there been some mistake? My birthday had come and gone; what was there to celebrate on this particular day?

As it turned out, it was a baby shower for Tara by proxy. My friends had spent weeks planning it. They’d had great fun, they told me, shopping for baby clothes. Some of them had gone overboard. As I opened present after present, I unearthed a whole wardrobe of onesies, little dresses, shirts and tights. One friend had knitted four tiny, striped socks and two hats. 

By the end of the afternoon, I was flying as high as the balloons. I felt nurtured and supported. My friends—most of whom had been through pregnancies of their own—understood why I was anxious as the birth of this grandchild approached. They cared enough to do something for the baby, for Tara and for me.

Three days later, Tara gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. My granddaughter didn’t know it yet, but she had a cheering section in a small group of people who couldn’t wait to meet her and who understood that when you’re feeling apprehensive, it helps a lot to know other people care. After I got home, every time I looked at the balloons bopping around my ceiling, I was grateful all over again that I had such good friends.