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A Shout From The Attic: The Esmee Years - 11

...Andrea Leslie was the most beautiful child – ever! Her plentiful soft dark copper hair framed a face that was luscious in its design and execution. The ultimate in sweetness with no trace of a wrinkle, utterly ‘peaches and cream,’ underpinning the ancient verity, that little girls are made from ‘sugar and spice and all things nice.’...

Ronnie Bray, continuing his autobiography, tells of his first experience of New Parent Panic.

Ask anyone. They will tell you that I am not exaggerating, neither am I suffering from that awful disease, parental bias. Andrea Leslie was the most beautiful child – ever! Her plentiful soft dark copper hair framed a face that was luscious in its design and execution. The ultimate in sweetness with no trace of a wrinkle, utterly ‘peaches and cream,’ underpinning the ancient verity, that little girls are made from ‘sugar and spice and all things nice.’

To see her was to love her. Discounting the fact that she was my firstborn and that I was baby-hungry, and deeply in love with her mother, this compelling fragment of humanity had the power to capture hearts, and had captured mine.

When she was about three months old, Esmé and I entrusted her to the temporary care of the young mother who lived downstairs in the bottom flat, and we walked the mile or so to Pokedown and went to the pictures. What picture was showing, I have no idea. However, the armful of sweets and other diversions made it into a social occasion. More importantly, this was the first time we had been out since Andy, as we fell into calling her, was born.

We felt a sense of freedom that was unusual. But babies are so needful and dependent and one’s life has to make such drastic changes that only the truly unselfish can make a halfway decent parent. Her majesty the baby had gone into our hearts on sight. We had become her faithful subjects, anticipating her every whim, picking her up when she cried and when she didn’t.

She had excellent taste in music and was soothed to sleep by my banjo playing. I am not sure whether I should tell you this, but the vacuum cleaner also had the same effect on her. Perhaps in her innocence she had decided that sleep was to be preferred to the noise of either. Born on the second day of, 1957, February, she brought spring and summer in her train, and brightened our lives with her loveliness and angel glow. All who looked upon her loved her.

We started to munch on our sweets and eat our ice cream as we watched the trailers for forthcoming attractions. Most of them were in black and white. The cinema was about half full. Sat in the dimness of that place I wondered if anyone else had a baby at home half as beautiful as mine. I doubted any one had.

Why they had to close the curtains after the advertisements and trailers only to have to open them again to show the films, I have never been able to figure out. Perhaps it is a vestige of showmanship from the days of theatre or variety, working its way out through the perseveration of the cinema manager. I wish I had been sensible enough to ask.

What film was being screened I have no idea. In any case, it is unimportant. What happened next was. I suppose that the film was about fifteen minutes into its run when Esmé and I both got the same idea. In a split second, we turned, each towards the other, knew what each other was thinking and, without uttering a word, rose and left the theatre and ran home to make sure that our baby was alright.

We had experienced New Parent Panic. I have learned that it is not unusual, especially when leaving the infant for the first time. When we reached home, we burst through the door. Our baby-sitter just laughed. We felt a little sheepish, thinking that she might consider our premature return as some kind of comment on .our confidence in her as a baby-sitter. “I am not surprised,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “We did the same the first time we left ours.”

We had discovered how hard it is to leave our beloved child without worrying that no one else will be able to see to their needs and their safety as well as we could. What didn’t hit us for some time was the thought that our Father in Heaven must have had similar concerns when he sent his Son to earth to be our exemplar and Redeemer. Most especially, he must have felt it when he had to leave his Son alone to die for the sins of humanity.

In that moment, all the pain of Fatherhood must have been brought to bear on him as he watched from a distance as Jesus accomplished his divine mission and became the Saviour of humankind. When he cried out from the cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? it must have broken the Father’s heart not to rush to his side, as we had rushed to our baby’s side from the cinema when she had lain sleeping peacefully.

Having a father’s heart helps me to understand the greatness of the Father’s love and appreciate how much he loves all his children so that he could witness his Son’s loving sacrifice without interfering. There are those who say that God is impassive and cannot feel pain. But if he did not weep when his own Son died on Calvary, that he was not truly a Father.

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