The Very Best Feathers
I will never forget the baby-grow worn by my first child on the day she arrived.
It was white, with pink trim and it had a little picture of a duck on the front that read ‘Le Petit Canard’ underneath. After buying it, I unwrapped it and washed it without any other garment so that the white wouldn’t fade and so that… well… it wouldn’t be contaminated in some way by something that had been dirty. It seems a little silly now, looking back, but at the time, it gave me immense joy to prepare. To protect. To line my nest with the very best feathers.
And all this before my daughter had even arrived. Before she’d achieved smile number one. Before she’d spoken her first word or created her first picture. Before she’d accomplished anything at all. I considered her utterly deserving of the cleanest, purest, most perfect little robe of white that I could find.
And there’s another thing I remember from those very first tender days of Lily’s life. They were very, very sleepy. Feeding made her sleepy, changing made her sleepy, bathing made her sleepy and sleeping made her sleepy. And so what was I going to do with those novel moments when she opened her eyes and tried to engage with the world around her? I was determined to make them count and fill them with as much joy as I possibly could. I vigorously shook my rattle and sweetly sung my songs along with every other member of the wider family. Everyone squeezed in to make the face that won that coveted smile.
We often compare newborns to those at the very end of their lives, don’t we? But since I founded Truth Be Told, a project that brings joy and life into residential care homes, I’ve been struck by the stark difference in the way we treat the vulnerably young, and the vulnerably old. Truth Be Told brings together these generations and unites them in the ageless activity of song and story. And so in juxtaposition, I can see that after we’ve achieved education, promotion and renown, when we’ve poured ourselves out for our employers, our families and our communities, there’s not a queue of eager faces trying to woo our affections. There’s no one waiting to line our nests with the very best feathers.
Is our environment clean? Yes. Is it safe? Yes. Are we treated ethically? Of course. But is our every waking second treasured or captured or even noticed? No. Our uncontrollable vulnerability when we’re new draws crowds, but that same uncontrollable vulnerability turns them away when we’re old.
True life and deep joy were created to be inextricable. Shouldn’t we be as determined as we were at first to line the last nest with the very best feathers and fill the final moments with the deepest joy?