After a pretty dark day yesterday I was delighted beyond words to walk into the NICU this morning and get the opportunity to hold Charlie for over an hour. What heaven. I was afraid to even ask why they were suddenly letting me do that for fear they would whisk him away. Had he passed some magic weight barrier? Did we simply have a nurse with no boundaries? Later, when Kendall also got the chance to hold him for over an hour we found out that they like to get parents holding their babies as soon as possible, he’s just been too fragile up to now. Of course he was still attached to all his wires and tubes, including his annoying CPAP breathing device so we had to be very careful but he seemed happy as a clam in our arms. I got to feel his sweet-smelling breath right on my face and actually hear audible gurgles and grunts. He’s inching towards three pounds so he didn’t seem as light as I expected. When we held Oliver in his little blanket he was light as a feather and while I’m so grateful to have held him, too, that whole scene was drenched in tragedy and pain. I remember the joy I felt holding Leah for the first time on the day she was born—all 8 lbs. 10 oz. of her. Charlie held his own during his vacation outside the incubator, seeming to enjoy our whispered words and singing.
Today I felt it only fitting to introduce him to the songs of his mentor, the oft-mentioned Charles Nelson Reilly who he is named after. Do you remember that Charles was nominated for a Tony Award in 1964 for his role as Cornelius Hackl in the original cast of “Hello Dolly?” His big song in that show was called “It Only Takes a Moment” and he sang it with ingénue Eileen Brennan who played Irene Malloy. You may remember Eileen more from her later brassy roles that put her on the map such as Goldie Hawn’s tough-talking drill sergeant in “Private Benjamin.” Eileen Brennan was another member of Kendall’s family's stock company of beloved actors, having appeared in several of Oliver’s plays and Kendall has many crazy childhood memories of her. As a kid, I remember being moved to tears by Brennan’s poignant performance as Genevieve in “The Last Picture Show” which I first saw in an old broken-down movie theatre in Israel, of all places, sitting on a wooden bench. Kendall and I have seen Eileen in many stage productions and always find her quite brilliant. The lyrics to Charles’ song felt so perfect to be singing to Charlie as he rested in my arms for the very first time:
It only takes a moment
For your eyes to meet and then
Your heart knows in a moment
You will never be alone again
I held him for an instant
But my arms felt sure and strong
It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long...
Earlier this spring, Leah sang that very song in our synagogue’s Purim shpiel, “Hello Esther!” a cross-dressing takeoff on “Hello Dolly.” I cried hearing Leah singing the song and I cried when I sang it to Charlie this morning.
Now let’s hear Charles, who we miss so much, and Eileen sing it to our boy: