Hidden in the suburbs of Detroit is the country oasis to which I escaped for a few days of rest and relaxation. My brother, sister-in-law, and their pint-sized daughter live on several acres of land in posh Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit. Their lifestyle, however, is more modern-hippie than suburban-yuppie. Their home is a refreshing slice of country ambiance right in the middle of suburbia: it’s an oasis of country in the middle of a bustling metropolis. Their yard is home to an impressive collection of plant and animal life, much of it growing wild and free. A walk through the grassy footpath around the backyard is the pedestrian version of an old-fashioned hayride as you pass by trees on one side and a field of plant life on the other. For my one-year-old niece, Lydia, I am sure it is the baby equivalent of a hayride as she cruises around the yard in a baby jogging stroller, observing everything intently.
Lydia is one of my favorite people in the whole world. Two feet tall with a head of blonde curls, she is gorgeous. Even more importantly, she is HILARIOUS! One of my favorite games that Lydia and I played was one in which I would build a tower out of wooden blocks and Lydia, or “Baby Zilla” as I called her during this game, would knock it down with glee. Every time we played a round of this game, I could see her eyes light up when she saw the new block tower and she would dive to sweep it into block chaos. Sometimes I could only make a three-block tower before Baby Zilla would see it! Baby Zilla is quick on the scene.
Lydia’s parents, Charlie and Amanda, are two of the kindest, most generous people I know. Anyone who enters their home can be sure that they will be loved and well-fed during their stay. During my stay with them, they threw a huge birthday bash for Lydia’s first birthday and invited a crowd of family and friends to join them for a backyard feast. And feast we did: the food was so good that I think I ate two dinners’ worth of food! Amanda’s mom, Barb, brought the most delicious Peanut Butter Salad which I cannot wait to try for myself at home. She told me it was simply chopped apples (NOT PEELED!), raisins, and sunflower seeds tossed with a dressing made of peanut butter and honey. It is a great fall dish: sweet, crunchy, and satisfying. Perfect for a picnic or a backyard barbecue. I like that the apples are not peeled because it adds more texture to the dish and makes it more nutritious because the peel is full of fiber and nutrients. Because Peanut Butter Salad is so delicious, if my version is even half as delicious as Barb’s, I’ll post a recipe here in the future.
Although Lydia has only been with us for a year (or two, if you count Amanda’s pregnancy, which I tend to do), it feels like she has always belonged with us. Her presence brings a sense of wholeness to the family, as though we have been waiting for her arrival for a long time without being able to articulate what it is we were missing. In Lydia’s face, I see all that is good and wonderful in this world: intelligence, curiosity, playfulness, and above all, love. I feel blessed to be connected to her by the bond of family. And she is blessed to have been born into a big, diverse, loving family. It is a pleasure to watch her learn and grow. The last time I saw her, she could barely hold her head up. During this visit, she was crawling, standing, and walking with just a little help. She talks all the time in baby sign language and baby babbling. She INSISTS on feeding herself most of the time, and her love of fruit and cheese suggests that she thinks she’s French. Most of the time she prefers that her mom hold her water bottle while she takes a drink, but toward the end of my visit, she allowed me the honor of holding her water bottle—either she decided I was trustworthy or she was just REALLY thirsty and couldn’t wait for mom! She loves going for walks and didn’t hesitate or fuss at all when I took her out in her stroller the day after I arrived. I was quite flattered that she didn’t seem to regard me as some scary stranger; she was perfectly comfortable with me from the moment I arrived. Of course, I’m sure it helped that Amanda was always nearby, but I’ll take the compliment!
A loving family, a roof over our heads, and good food on the table: blessed are we who have all we need in this world.