To Make God Laugh

Wendy Hornsby

There are so many old saws, adages, and at least one charming poem about the folly of expecting life to follow a carefully devised plan that I don’t quite know where to begin.  Robert Burns, maybe:  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.”  Or Woody Allen, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Paul and I should have known better, but we devised what looked like a pretty good plan for the near future.  We sold our house and had thirty days to vacate.  At that point we would be roughly thirty days from the due date of my first grandson.  So, here’s the plan:  We would put everything into storage and a rent a charming but tiny cottage in the town where we hoped to relocate for the interim month until the baby came.  Taste some local wine, relax, house hunt, take long naps were the items on our agenda. 

After the cottage month we would decamp to Menlo Park to wait for the baby.  After arrived, assuming the plan would stay on track and before we had made total nuisances of ourselves, we would leave baby smooching to the new parents and move into our new, permanent home.    

The rented cottage we found, set among lush vineyards, is charming but is, indeed, tiny.   We knew we had to be efficient about what we took with us.  We made a list of basic kitchen tools we’d need to prepare meals in the ill-equipped kitchen.  There wouldn’t be a separate space for an office, but we figured out where to set up our computers.  And closet space?  Not much.  We’d decided that our time in the cottage would be like an elegant campout:  good bed, well-appointed bathroom, Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and various other necessities.  Just not a lot of space, and no room service.

We felt as if we were headed off on something of an adventure into terra incognita, like Jack Aubrey at the helm of The Surprise, happily expectant and, we hoped, well armed for whatever we might find just over the horizon.

Did you hear God laugh just then? 

The phone rang late one night during the first week of August.  My grandson had plans of his own; he wasn’t waiting until September to appear.  Come now, my son-in-law told us.

In the middle of the night there was, blessedly, no traffic.  On long, black freeway stretches as we sped toward the hospital in Palo Alto, our only company was CalTrans workers and truckers and the sort of dark fears that parents have when their children might be in peril.  There was comfort in knowing that they were in good hands at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.  But I’ve earned a living with my imagination for far too long to be comforted by cold reason.  Paul was a brick, quiet and reassuring.  I was a mess.

God also smiles.  My daughter is fine.   The baby, Oliver, needed to finish cooking some under the watchful care of the neonatal unit staff before he could go home with his parents, but there were no big worries.  After his mother went home, Oliver simply stayed on at Stanford for a little post-doc work. 

Ollie went home last weekend.  He’s now round and rosy cheeked and absolutely adorable.  His parents are tired but justifiably proud.  The grandmother is still a work in progress, but recovering.  And couldn’t be happier. 

Except, we’re committed to the tiny yet picturesque cottage for the next month.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

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3 Responses

  1. Allen was beautifully rephrasing the terse Yiddish saying “Mann tracht un Gott lacht,” which literally is Man thinks and God laughs but is usually translated as Man plans and God laughs. The rhyme in Yiddish makes it more pungent than in English.

    • Harlan Coban uses a version of the quote frequently. He say, “Make God laugh, tell him your plans.” From now on, I’m using the Yiddish.

      Sent from my iPad

  2. Funny! I’m very glad baby Ollie is okay, and hope you can rest up a bit while camping in your cottage.

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