A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Amy was born nine months after Anita and I were married.

Well, OK – nine months MINUS one day. But who's counting?

As it turned out, she was born just a few days before Mother's Day – which always seemed wonderfully appropriate to me. For Anita, Amy was her first Mother's Day gift: motherhood itself. And what a beautiful gift she was, with lots of dark hair, humongous eyes and a patient, loving disposition that was evident even in the hospital nursery.

I was amazed at how easily Anita slipped into her new role. Like Judy Garland was made to play Dorothy and Frank Sinatra was made to sing "My Way," Anita was made to be a mother. She took to it like Tom Clancy took to writing, like Carol Burnett took to comedy. She always seemed to know what to do, and she could read Amy's cries like Barry Bonds reads pitchers.

"Give her a minute," she said once when I jumped up to respond to a tiny voice wailing.

"But she sounds like she's in pain," I said, a little surprised by Anita's indifference.

"That isn't her ‘pain' cry. That's her fussy cry. In a few minutes she'll be asleep."

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Maybe she's hungry or wet or something."

"Nope," she said. "That isn't her ‘hungry' or ‘wet' cry, either. She's fine, I promise."

"But what if she isn't?"

Anita gave me a look that is part patient mother, part supportive spouse and part river boat gambler. "I'll bet you a back rub that she's asleep within five minutes," she said.

I learned not to bet against her instincts – much to the relief of my poor, arthritic fingers.

Amy was the first grandchild on Anita's side of the family, which meant that she not only brought the gift of motherhood to Anita, but she also brought the gift of grandparenthood to Anita's parents and the gift of unclehood to her three brothers. Anita's parents were well-prepared for their new roles, but her brothers needed a little time to grow into it. Upon seeing Amy for the first time, Anita's teenage brother Steve scrunched up his nose disapprovingly.

"Are they supposed to look like that?" he asked.

"Steven!" his mother responded sharply. "That's a beautiful baby!"

Steve stared at Amy for another moment or two, then shrugged his shoulders.

"I'll take your word for it," he said.

I'm happy to report that Steve has had ample opportunity to adjust to the look of newborn babies. He and his wife have had 17 or 18 of them – I've lost track.

Amy's arrival was perceived differently on my side of the family. I am the youngest of eight children, and was the last to start having children of my own. And my older brothers and sisters weren't exactly shy about multiplying and replenishing the earth. So Amy was the 43rd Walker grandchild – or thereabouts – out of a total that would eventually reach 54. Which is not to say that she wasn't cherished and valued. It's just that she wasn't all that unusual.

But at least nobody on MY side of the family thought she looked funny.

Twenty-four years later Amy is approaching her first Mother's Day as a mother. Her little Samantha Jo was born in March and is the very image of her mother, right down to the dark hair and humongous eyes. I have enjoyed watching motherhood distill upon my daughter, from her first tentative attempts to elicit a much-needed burp from her squalling infant to the calm, confident way she now cares for her child. Like her mother, Amy was made to be a mother.

Which means she has already received the ultimate Mother's Day gift: motherhood itself.

# # #

--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through