Opinion: Musings on the coast


The Sweet Smell of a Newborn  

My daughter Gabby had just birthed my first grandchild, Oliver Grady Norquest, 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and was the epitome of the super-protective new mother.  She and her husband, Mike, live in Highland Park, near Pasadena, and Oliver was a week late, so they decided to induce her.   

The hospital is in Glendale, and it has no waiting room—weird but true—so you wait in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Gabby told me not to come. She was worried that I would be worried, and she did not want to worry about me being worried. I told her I would wait patiently, but Gabby said no, do not wait. She did not want anyone to wait, worry, or hang around.   

Ok, I thought, the baby is hers and she can do what she wants, and will, just like her mother Teddie and Teddie’s mother, Pat Toon, control freaks all—all three of ‘em—shall I say, Alpha Women who do not abide any nonsense like maybe granddad might want a say. 

So, I had to wait three days until Oliver Grady Norquest got home, then I was told I could visit, but only if I was fully vaccinated and wearing a mask. Ok, fine with me; I did it all and Gabby tentatively held Oliver out to me, a precious and very breakable package, and I carefully cradled his head and then the rest of his squirming-baby body. But, as I stated, it was only for the briefest of moments and there were other people there. Not intimate, I thought, Gabby and Mike were parading the relatives through one at a time and were exhausted and just wanted to get it over. She might as well have worn a sign, “leave us alone,” and so I gave her and Mike and Oliver my love and quickly left. There would be another, better, time. 

And there was, when Oliver was one month old. It was last Friday; Mike was working, no one else was around and I drove up midday. 

This time Gabby opened the front door of her home, and it was different, quiet, peaceful, and more: that sweet, sweet odor of a new baby. It was unmistakable and it permeated their home, tiny as it is, and I could see Gabby had gotten into it. The living room is dominated by a huge, deep couch and Mommy & Baby had turned it into a that chaotic space new babies and parents make for themselves, the dishes forgotten over there somewhere, but not to worry, not today and not tomorrow—they would be gotten to. 

Gabby immediately handed me Oliver and I placed him lengthways on my legs, my hand cradling his head. He burped, hiccupped, smiled (yeah, that WAS a smile), then plunk—just like that—he fell asleep. 

“Put him on your chest,” she said. 

That was a surprise. “Don’t worry, he’ll stay asleep.” 

I laid him there, then I leaned all the way back, deep into the couch, my legs dangling, my body almost parallel to the ground (I thought, no wonder she and Mike love that couch), and I fell into a lethargic stupor, my eyes closed, quickly almost asleep myself, when slowly an absolute sparkling joy overtook me.  

“Gabby, I almost feel like endorphins were released when I put him on my chest.” 

“Dad, they were.  I looked it up; putting an infant on your chest does that.” 

I smiled. Of course they were, and that was as far as I got trying to analyze why or what for.  It. Simply. Was.

Joy. Absolute, total, complete joy. Right then, right there. My daughter. My grandson. The chaos. The smell. The perfume of the family. 

It is why we live.

Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s.

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