Greyson, Son of Grace

Greyson Francis Wingert was a gift with a capital G. Rarely has a baby been so long-awaited (4 years) and so long past due (10 days). But when he finally arrived, he did his dead-level best to compensate for the inconvenience through sheer irresistible sweetness.

Truly, our Greyson was one of the happiest, alert-est, goofiest, contented-est babies I’ve ever met. (Even after factoring in our beaming, brazen bias.) He was an utter pleasure to have and to hold.

And he was our dream come true. Our odds-defying miracle from God. Our unequivocal proof of the underlying goodness of this broken world.

He was, and is, our “grace son.”

As a baby, Greyson quickly proved himself an ardent nature enthusiast. He would lie peacefully on my lap at the foot of our big tree gazing up through the branches at the sky on hot summer days. I remember him rarely making a peep when we were outside. Pure reverence, pure wonder. He made me suddenly realize how loud the songbirds were, because he carefully took in every beautiful decibel.

When Greyson would get fussy in the house, all it took was to carry him across the threshold into the great outdoors. Like a spell being cast, he grew silent and his eyes grew wide the moment they took in a wider view. Nature was his magic soothing agent. His natural habitat. His muse. His pacifier.

At 1 and 2 years old, I made a habit of taking morning walks with Greyson to observe the goats and pigs and a horse named Cheyenne at a nearby farm. Our boy was a delight to walk with, babbling happily, and he always took delight in watching Cheyenne and her hooved cohorts.

This love of animals turned into a full-fledged obsession at 3. Greyson would play endlessly with his little animals, hard and stuffed, and set up farms and zoos and jungles and African savannas around the house. For a long while, he always brought a small orange bucket of small animals with him on our walks in the woods.

He would arrange them in sweet, impromptu dioramas on park benches and tree roots. He relished playing hide and seek with them, laughing giddily when I pretended not to be able to find a hippo that he had hid in plain sight.

He also read animal encyclopedias — including the index! — and became shockingly well-versed in animal facts and where each one lived. He would sometimes run the table on a Jeopardy! category involving animals. (Although for some reason, the producers of the show never sent us the money he had rightly earned.)

This morphed into a year of bird obsession, as he casually grew into the preeminent 4-year-old avian expert on the East coast. He blew our minds with his uncanny ability to identify bird pictures, or accurately name the denizens of our birdfeeder outside the dining room window.

He’s always been a single-minded boy. He was like that about cars and trucks, then animals and birds, then Christmas carols, and now songs by Caspian (our family’s collective favorite band). And lately, he seems to be edging back toward animals, to my delight. Only time will tell what will pique his interest next.

Greyson also has a delightful penchant for spontaneously crafting little poems and songs and story snippets. Sometimes these verbal doodles start strong and then devolve into nonsense. And sometimes they attain a kind of unconscious poetic grandeur.

It’s striking, and kind of inspiring, to see him create without being aware of it as a creative act. He doesn’t second-guess any poetic (or absurdist) impulse he has. Pure stream of consciousness. If I could write like that, my output would immediately quintuple. But he has no concept of output. He’s simply creating.

Now that he’s 5 — no, 6! — our boy can also be a handful at times. We haven’t yet been able to convince him that fussing makes everyone (including him) less happy. That’s our current parenting battle du jour, and on some jours we slog it out in the muddy trenches with no noticeable progress. Greyson is a very particular fellow, and he can be particularly hard to reason with.

But my gosh, what a wonder and a gem our boy is. What a wild, glistening mind he has. What a silly laugh, and what a radiant smile. And the way he adores playing with Violet, and conjuring up wild flights of fancy with her, is a thing of beauty. Both of them are marvels of innocence and imagination.

We spent 4 increasingly agonizing years, waiting and waiting and hoping against hope that our dreamed-of baby would someday be spoken into existence. When he finally was, at a moment when we had all but given up, we cried tears of joy, drowning our former sorrows in a sea of gratitude. And when our baby boy was born, he was the most beautiful thing (by a good margin!) we had ever laid eyes on.

Happy birthday, Greyson Francis. You are my living proof that the world, underneath its terrors and its tears, is a wonderful and wonder-filled place.

We have hundreds of adventures behind us, and thousands more up ahead. So buckle up, buddy boy. It’s sure to be an epic ride.

And I’m grateful beyond words to have you in our passenger seat.