Anne Notations

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hey, little bud

As I drove to work earlier this week, I saw alongside a busy city street several young little trees, new chartreuse leaves just beginning to poke from the tips of their whip-thin branches. In the morning sunshine the saplings waved skyward like eager toddlers reaching up for their mothers' hands.

So sweet, the baby trees! They evoke a maternal smile. How perfectly nature has programmed the young of almost every species to be adorable, appealing; and the elders to delight in the sight of them.

At a baby shower in 1992 when I was pregnant with Kevin, some of us were cooing about the utter cuteness of infants. My friend Judith, a sweet-faced woman whose long career has been spent in the field of primate research, remarked tartly, "That's so we won't eat them." We all laughed.

I laughed, and instantly I knew she was right. Babies are helpless, cute; their round faces and big vulnerable heads soften our expressions, stir our hearts, and prompt us to reach out with open arms to gather the soft bundles to our chests.

Judith's clinical observation was a bracing reminder of what we are: heirs to millennia of behavioral and physical evolution. The survival of a sentient species depends on the charity of its mature organisms toward newborns. We are programmed to go "Awww!", to be gentle and protective with the young, and not just toward the young of Homo sapiens: The archetypal bobbleheads and tottering clumsiness of baby birds and animals have the same effect on us. This explains the appeal of Web sites such as Cute Overload – my own nightly indulgence to ease the day's cares before I get ready for bed.

No wonder I am touched by the sight of those saplings tossing their fluffy heads along the busy streets of Providence. Charmed by the tiny snake we found sunning near our house. Enchanted by the prattling of three-year-old Caroline when she visits every Friday.

Youth isn't wasted on the young. It's lavished on the rest of us who, witnessing new life in its myriad forms, dissolve in love and joy.


Post a Comment

<< Home