Hello everyone. It’s a new year and this is a new column. So what’s new? No, I mean literally – what does it mean to be new? Is it true that nothing is new under the sun? Or do most things fit in the category of pre-owned cars – new to me, perhaps, but not new in terms of only just coming into being.
The news is almost never new. World leaders are having meetings and the economy is going up or down and there are wars and rumors of wars. Weather events take place, and crimes are committed. Someone dies, and we reflect on what it meant for that person to have lived.
I’ve worked as a nanny for over a decade. I used to take care of a little girl named Nova, and nova actually means new in Latin. One of the more unusual aspects of this arrangement was that the mom was a fellowship student in pediatric nephrology at UNC, and was determined to return to classes not only while Nova was still breastfeeding, but before she would agree to take a bottle.
This meant that I became an itinerant nanny, walking the halls and green spaces of campus with Nova in a sling, usually finding us a little nest with comfortable seating and somewhere to change a diaper (because as we discovered, very few bathrooms on campus had a changing table.) When Nova got hungry, it was time to find mom.
It was not unusual to be greeted by surprised gasps when people saw me. “A baby!” they’d whisper, to themselves or others. I’d be stopped or visited by students and faculty and staff who were amazed and excited by the presence of this creature on campus.
One woman let me know that she had taken the long way to her destination so she could see the baby. One office manager became a regular stop on our travels, so she could hold Nova and sing to her and ask me what was new with Nova that day. Was she happy? How long were her naps? Was she crying much? And, almost as an afterthought – how was I doing? I did not take offense. It truly did feel like a privilege to be the escort of this Buddha-baby, this miraculous being with the power to make people change course.
Once a tearful pregnant woman with a gorgeous Muslim headscarf stopped to ask where I had gotten the purple cloth sling in which I carried her, and in which she took long naps while I read long novels. I told her I didn’t know.
“It’s a beautiful baby,” she said, “and it’s a beautiful sling!”
Once, the dean of the medical school held the door for me and complimented Nova’s outfit.
Nova truly was a new thing. Once she was staring at a pillow and the person with me commented – “It’s like she’s never seen a pillow before.” She had seen two or three maybe, and she certainly had not seen that particular pillow before, so it was pretty close to true.
When Nova smiled at someone, they could not help but smile back. Her whole face lit up as she made a new connection. Once when someone asked about her, I found myself saying, “I’m so glad she was born.” She helped me tap into one of the greatest joys of being a nanny – to see old things with new eyes. To lose the filters. To be, and to have that be enough.
There is a Christmas song I heard for the first time after I’d met Nova. It’s in Latin and it’s called “Nova! Nova! Nova!” – exclamation points after each one. The song is about the news that a savior has been born. Each child brings that into the world. Each one is new. Each one can be a savior.
Amy Trojanowski dreams of one day having a pet goat. Contact her at email@example.com.