On Sunday afternoon the happy sounds of women’s voices filled my house. Thirty of us filled my kitchen, dining room and living room with chatter and laughter. The impending birth of my niece, Jessica’s, first baby was the occasion for celebrating. My daughter-in-law, Kate, and I spent many hours planning this party and, with the help of my sister (the grandma), it was a pretty terrific day all around. We made some of Jessica’s favorites for our luncheon: hot chicken salad, “Seconds Please” hash brown potato casserole, a green salad with mandarin oranges, glazed pecans and a poppy-seed dressing, fresh fruit salad, and crusty french rolls. Donna ordered a simply delicious cake from Gruttadauria’s Bakery, and I baked Italian lemon cookies, another favorite of my niece and my girls.
Piled high on the living room floor were several stacks of presents for Mom and baby. Jess sat in the center of the room carefully reading each card and opening each gift. In typical fashion, lots of comments and giggling could be heard as everyone chatted about this gift or that, how times have changed, and how “they never had that when I had my babies!” Kate and Julie took care of the obligatory game-playing — we spared everyone and kept it to two of the more popular baby shower games of the day: measuring string to match the size of Mom’s belly and sniffing diapers smeared with various candy bars that are supposed to look like what babies leave in diapers (yuck)!
After presents and games, we served cake, cookies and coffee. Everyone lingered for longer than I anticipated; I proudly told my girls and my sister that it was a huge success because of this fact. And, later, when only a few of us family members were there and could sit with her, we discovered the gifts all over again as Jessica excitedly showed us her loot.
On Sunday, as I flitted about in my usual “hostess-with-the-mostest” fashion, I listened and occasionally chimed in with a group sharing a particular story. Cousins reveled in childhood memories about our mothers, friends talked about becoming mothers for the first time years ago, most talked about how quickly our children grow, family traditions, and, of course, how parenting has changed through the generations. There was plenty of advice for the soon-to-be-mom, followed by affirmations and laughter. The youngest female at the shower was 3 and the oldest was 83. Thirty women of all ages, shapes and sizes, sharing the common bond of womanhood and motherhood. Women telling amazing stories of their lives — ordinary lives perhaps to the world, but in every sense of the word, extraordinary.
We women have lots of rituals around marriage and births, but I think my favorite is probably the baby shower. Everyone knows the term “shower” connotes that the new mom is “showered” with gifts, advice and well wishes. I have hosted lots of baby showers in my house, and I’ve loved all of them. I think it’s really special to host a baby shower at home where the guests can mingle throughout the entire party and linger for as long as they wish. Age doesn’t seem to matter either. Sometimes I feel a little irrelevant at a bridal shower since I am now a grandmother myself, but at a baby shower, almost everyone is either a mother or a woman who has been with babies and children for some part of their life.
Perhaps because I was raised to cherish family, I’ve tried not to miss an opportunity to honor the women in my life blessed to become mothers. I can’t count the number of baby showers I’ve attended, but I can say that I’ve traveled as far as Chicago to celebrate with the expectant mom. It isn’t about the party, it’s the rite of impending motherhood that makes it so special. As cliché as it sounds, women really are beautiful when they are pregnant. Even the most difficult pregnancies may be more tolerable when we think of the child who will soon enter the world. A baby shower heightens the anticipation of this life-changing event. Watching the most important young women in my life become mothers is a gift I don’t take for granted. Graced with eight beautiful grandchildren, I am humbled by the fact that we expect to welcome four new little ones into our family later this year.
Lots of things have changed over generations, yet women continue the ritual of baby showers — the celebration of a young woman’s passage to motherhood.