She's Harper Joan, and She's Lovely
Today’s column is free to all because it’s about my cool niece and her new baby…but I’d REALLY appreciate if you became a regular subscriber. Three columns a week…with all the trimmings.
Thank you all. Merry Christmas.
"She's Amanda, and She's Lovely". That was the title of my Father's column in the Scranton Times on January 26, 1989.
Amanda, his first granddaughter, was born 5 days earlier. He had held her and fell in the kind of love you never fall out of. "Within minutes", he wrote, "she was something I would die for."
He and his column were an NEPA institution by this time. This was excellent PR for my niece right out of the gate. She became a tiny celebrity for a news cycle or two. My Dad was stopped and congratulated on the street. He set the bar pretty high with his prose though. A lot of lovely to live up to. But Amanda remains lovely, and when my Dad got sick and the twinkles in his eyes became rare, her voice, or the touch of her hand in his, could fire them back up. Theirs was a love story that warmed the coldest heart.
That column was framed and hung in her house as she grew up. And it hangs in her new home now.
Amanda was the flower girl in my wedding. A precocious, blatantly Irish blue-eyed beauty with her red hair and freckles....to me she remained frozen in time, perpetually 6 years old. The first time I saw her in a bar my instinct was to throw my coat over her head and hustle her out before the LCB showed up. No matter how many times she reminded me she was well past 21, and now into her 30s, it didn't register.
And so it was that when she showed up at my door about 7 months ago with ultrasound pictures, it took me way longer than it should have to realize what I was looking at. But I'd never seen her so happy. So radiant. So sure of herself. She and her boyfriend Derick obviously adored each other, and this is what they wanted. I just knew I was looking at a great mother already. We soon learned she was going to have a girl. This fired my imagination. I was anticipating that bond. You do not want to be the first male to cross either one of them. Every fight from now on is going to be 2 on 1.
It has never fazed Amanda that I'm still forever asking "how old are you again?" For that I'm grateful.
These are not normal times, of course. We're still in the midst of a pandemic that won't let go. Our nation is more polarized than ever before. There are shortages of everything, including, it seems, basic human decency. The world children are born into today can be a hard, cruel place. The Beatles said "love is all you need", but for parents it takes a sprinkle of guts too. Amanda and Derick have both.
And so, Harper Joan.
We were ready for her but apparently, like a bunch of others these days, she needed to "do her own research". Amanda's due date came and went. Harper Joan was not convinced. “She’s barricaded in there like it’s Fort Knox” is how her Mom put it.
Eventually she had to be evicted. And so it was that Harper Joan Kearsh, ready or not, peered into the mirror of her Mother's eyes for the first time. It was December 11, 2021 at 1:51pm.
The world being what it is, none of us could be with her. We waited for text messages, or Facebook photos. We waited for that first glimpse at what we already knew would be stunning. Her parents are so ridiculously handsome it's almost eye-rolling, so expectations were high. Harper Joan arrived and was perfect. We all fell in love instantly, the same way my Father did 30+ years ago. In a few weeks, once she gets all her shots and everybody is boosterized, we'll descend like the crazy family we are, and argue over who has held her long enough and whose turn it is. I'll peer into her eyes and wax poetic in my own head....creating instantaneous Shakespearean sonnets that I'll forget the second she's pried from my arms. Creativity can be a bitch.
She's Harper Joan, and she's lovely. She's surrounded by love and faith and just enough lunatics to keep things interesting. She is going to be ferocious and empathetic and, like her Mom, probably barely 5 feet tall. But Amanda has always loomed large in this family. I expect Harper Joan to be a giant.
I love you Harper Joan.
In a bit…