Over twenty-five years ago in the Hunter 17th Ward in the Salt Lake Hunter Central Stake, Steve and Diane Lawrence, in the gray area of age when it is still safe to have children, just had twins. Both of the preemie girls were born blind, with mental and physical disabilities.
Shortly after that event, Marcia Martinez, I think it was, bore her testimony one Fast Sunday. She told the story of a string of unfortunate events in her life that were testing her patience, the most recent of which was a church assignment for which she had neither the time nor disposition to do.
In her half-hearted attempt to fill the unwanted assignment, she found herself knocking on the Lawrences' front door; she needed to borrow something, and had just made arrangements to pick it up. No answer. She rang the bell. No answer. On top of everything that was so annoying to her at that time, the last thing she needed was for Steve, who had moments earlier on the phone invited her over to pick up the whatever-it-was, to make her wait. She started thinking mean things about Brother Lawrence (who is one of the nicest guys I know) when she heard some cries, some fumbling, and he finally opened the door.
He looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot, he moved very deliberately, being ever so careful as he rocked one wailing infant in his arm while gently rolling another wailing infant from side to side on the ground, since his other hand was holding the whatever-it-was that Marcia needed. I remember her saying that she just stood there gaping at him, so willing to help even in the midst of his own plight. She figured from their looks that her phone call had probably awaken all three of them. But there he stood, cheerful and ready to help. Suddenly her problems went away. Did I mention: these girls might not live, and there she was mentally berating the helpful and kind Steve, who was wondering how to come up with hospital payments, and maybe even funeral costs.
She stepped off of the doorstep toward her car completely repentant, grateful, and with a perspective that has stuck with me since the 80s. I'm glad she bore that testimony. I'm surprised I remember it. I couldn't have been more than 8-years old at the time.
Last Friday night was Girls' Night in Chelsie's circle of friends (not to be confused with "Ladies' Night," I've been told, due to the temptation to consider the participants as "old," whatever that means). The event was Bunco, and the venue was the Tracy home, a family in our ward well-known for being admirable examples of gospel living. Except for hosting gambling events.
At about 6:45 pm, Chelsie went to pick up Brittany, a friend of ours who is studying The Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To me, this seemed like the perfect non-religious (I'll say!) setting for her to interact with the ladies *ahem* --the girls in our ward (most of whom have 3 or more children--children having children, I guess, is how they'd rather be viewed). What was I saying? Oh yeah, we were excited for Brittany to have a fun social outing with the girls and feel a little more integrated. The girls would also benefit from getting to know her.
So, off they go, to gamble and paint toenails and gamble and talk about boys and gamble. No sooner did the minivan disappear up NE Village Squire Ave then both sleeping babies stopped sleeping. When they (and their older brother) commence their hypnopompic state, they like to announce it with vigor and with "extreme prejudice," to borrow a famous movie line. And thus was my peaceful night without the ol' ball and chain terminated. With extreme prejudice.
I started with Jude. I made a bottle, but nothing doing--he wasn't hungry. So I held and rocked him. Let's say he's a very prejudiced boy. A noisemonger, you know. Maybe it was a bubble in his belly, so I tried burping him. Minutes passed, and I could not quiet him. All the while, Lucas was still freaking out. Flustered with Jude, I turned to his older little brother.
Somewhere in focusing on Jude and trying to talk Lucas down from his ledge, Liam burst into the room--which startled the duet into louder overtures of discontent--bringing my attention to something that I wasn't yet aware of: "doze babies are KWYING so so bad, like dis: WAH WAH! WAH WAH!" Two screaming 5-month olds and a 2-year old joining in on the serenade. "Liam! SSSSHHHHH!!!!" I hissed sharply. "Please don't scare them! And please leave!" Liam responded with "I better help doze babies!" and dashed away upstairs. Chelsie had been gone all of 15 minutes.
My patience was wearing thin, I was angry with Liam, upset at the babies for not knowing what they wanted, mad at myself for not knowing how to comfort them, miffed that Chels was livin' the vida loca, wondering how I was going to survive paying for high school sports, wondering which one is the evil twin that I'll need to post bail for someday (Jude, at that point), when...
...I saw Marcia standing at the pulpit, describing the image of Steve, haggard and dirty, smiling through exhaustion and clamor and uncertainty, extending his hand to offer her something that she needed. Decades later, that testimony and Steve's kindness offered something that I needed.
Lucas was easy. He wanted a bottle. He can't hold it by himself. I was already holding Jude, so holding both babies and attempting to feed Lucas wasn't working. I laid him on the bed and fed him with one arm, while still bobbing Jude with the other--with lackluster effort. Before long, the bottle was nearly empty, Luke's eyes were rolled back and he was half-heartedly smacking the nipple, quickly replaced with a pacifier.
Jude? Still crying! Not just crying, but freaking out. Oh yeah, somewhere in there I got their diapers changed. So he wasn't dirty, he wasn't hungry and he wasn't tired. He was just being needy.
Suddenly, the door burst open again! With Liam's vociferous pronouncement: "DADDY, I NEED A YELLOW LID!" Lucas erupted anew and Jude's cries gained refreshed strength. Yellow lid?! I thought to myself. What on earth is he talking about? The only yellow lids I know of are the ones that go on the bottles used with Chelsie's breast pump.
I coaxed Lucas back to rest easily enough, and I left Jude to cry out his neediness. Besides, at this point, through Liam's repetitive anthem of "Daddy, I need a yellow lid!" I could hear water running upstairs, and realized that I recalled hearing it running for at least several minutes, but was previously too distracted to care. LIAM! Now what have you done?! I may have said that last part out loud, but I know that I at least thought it. I raced to the upstairs bathroom to find the sink running and water all over the counter top and floor.
Just then, Liam caught up to me, and again blared--you guessed it--"I need a yellow lid!" I angrily grabbed a towel to throw on the floor, and in the same motion scooped up Liam to award him 5 minutes in the penalty box when I noticed:
Knowing where Mommy pumps, and observing how she prepares the milk for storage for later use, he saw my pathetic situation and took action. Remember, way back when he said "I better help doze babies!" this is what he set off to do. Marcia-like, I repented of my judgments when I saw inside my little boy's mind and the kind heart he has. I held him and asked him what he was doing. "I maked bottles for my baby brudders, because they are so sad and they kwied like dis: WAH WAH."
I interrupted him for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to hear him mimic their cries again, especially not during such a moment as this, and 2) I didn't hear Jude anymore.
I took Liam downstairs to verify that both babies were asleep--and alive; I needed to know that Jude, at least, was still breathing, due to his disposition just moments earlier. We celebrated together: Liam got hot chocolate for being such a kind boy, and I got to snuggle quietly with him, until he reminded me that I owed him one episode of "Go Diego Go!" on Netflix. But watching that from bed on the iPad is still a comfortable treat.
Chelsie came home sometime after 11 pm. Brittany had a blast; they all did, and Chels told me that it was just what she needed.
Epilogue: The Lawrence girls know the church hymnal better than anybody else in the congregation, and always sing with enthusiasm.