On January 23, 1979, we brought Erin and Carrie home for the second time. Jane had stayed in the hospital room with them around the clock for 13 days. She was exhausted but never complained. At home she kept a constant vigil of watchful care. Like all of us, she was afraid to leave them alone even briefly. Their lives had consisted of four weeks of uncertainty, an uncertainty which lingered menacingly in our thoughts.
The bitter January cold was warmed by some good news. On January 30th Jane and I brought Seth home. At 39 days old, he only weighed four pounds twelve and a half ounces, but Dr. Harvey thought home was the best place for him. Dr. Harvey was right.
Bringing Seth home was the beginning of a challenging but rewarding first year. There were some amusing moments which came by our being thrice blessed. Jane and I often enjoyed recounting the questions we were asked. The most frequent was, “Do they all look just alike?”
We’d explain that they didn’t all look alike, but the follow up question would often be, “How do you tell them apart?” I told one lady that we notched their ears. I enjoyed watching her befuddled reaction, but Jane asked me not to use that line again. As she has said many times through the decades we’ve been married, “Not everyone knows when you’re kidding.”
We were blessed to have a lot of family support at home. My mother was a tremendous help. My cousin-in-law, Marian Bowen, was in the regular rotation and was quickly elevated to aunt status. Jane’s parents came up from Thomasville on weekends as Mr. Horne put his Saturday fishing trips on hold. A memory from one of their much-appreciated visits especially stands out.
The triplets were in their second month home when Jane’s parents came to Vienna that Friday night. All three children were asleep as we ate supper in a rare time of serenity. Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Horne, and I were seated at the table quietly enjoying our meal.
“Jane and I have something to tell you,” I said in a very serious tone. The silence in the room was sudden and absolute. Jane’s mother was moving her lips but not making any audible sound. Her father looked as if he wanted to ask something but was not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
“Jane is pregnant,” I said. It took a few moments for that to fully sink in. I was afraid to laugh but more afraid not to.
“That’s not funny!” said Mrs. Horne matter of factly. Jane assured her that I was teasing, but she still found no humor in my jesting.
Mr. Horne never ate a big plate of anything at mealtimes, but he loved desserts. He had dessert twice a day every day. For the first time in the six plus years I had known him, he excused himself early from the table. Watching a dessert addict lose his taste for sweets was sort of painful. Jane, a completely innocent bystander, didn’t think it was very funny either, a position she has maintained for forty years.
The early months were filled with surprises. There were little moments that were special, like the first time they rolled over by themselves, the first time they began feeling the texture of things, or curiously touching our faces.
In January of 1979 I began keeping a diary. Some days I would write only a line or two or not write at all. At other times I would try to catch up and make sure I hadn’t left out anything significant. One of those early notations remains among my favorites, “God’s greatest gift to parents is a baby’s smile.”
I suppose there are many gifts that are arguably better or at least just as good. But there were times when we were tired and frazzled and still had things to do. It’s amazing how much joy and energy and inspiration a baby’s smile can evoke.
At 40 years old Erin, Seth, and Carrie still have warm and ready smiles. That never grows old for a parent. Maybe God’s greatest gift to parents isn’t smiling babies after all. Maybe His greatest gift is smiling babies who grow up to be smiling adults.