One chance to make a first impression

Tuesday morning, 8:00 AM. Eschewing my usual uniform of jeans and polo shirt, I don a freshly laundered shirt and dress slacks. I carefully shave, buff my shoes to a reasonable shine, and brush down the few remaining hairs on my head. I have an important meeting today, and I want to look my best. The words of a famous advertising slogan, ‘There’s only one chance to make a first impression’, run through my mind. I need to make a good impression, because this will be our first meeting, and I want to start things off on the right foot. Arriving late with an unkempt appearance is not acceptable.

Am I about to close on a major business deal?  Break bread with a celebrity? Discuss a question of Jewish law with a leading rabbi?

If you answered ‘none of the above’, you are correct. Today, I am going to meet someone far more important — our granddaughter, who entered the world at 4:00 AM, just a few hours ago.

That being the case, why do I bother with the clean shirt, the close shave, and the shiny shoes? Newborn babies cannot see very far – according to the experts, they can see objects only until a distance of 8-15 inches.  And while infants do have a fairly well-developed sense of smell, I hardly think that my granddaughter will find my Old Spice deodorant to be particularly attractive.

We arrive at the hospital, meet our son and daughter-in-law, hear their tale of labor and delivery, and finally sit down to a first meeting with our granddaughter. While I am confident that at some future date we will have a lot to talk about, at this time she doesn’t have much to say, and quite honestly, I myself have difficulty coming up with an icebreaker remark.

So, if she can’t see me, and is not all that aware of my presence, why the need to get all spiffed up for our first meeting?  Certainly, she is lovely and cute and perfect – if I did not say as much, then I wouldn’t be much of a grandfather. But I suspect that the answer has more to do with the potential of a newborn baby than anything else. Seeing a newborn baby for the first time, and looking at her, not just as an infant, but as a creature with unimaginable potential and possibilities, is enough to give one pause and reason enough to put on a clean shirt. In a world which seems to grow more complicated with each passing day, meeting a newborn child for the first time – especially one’s own grandchild – is a simple pleasure and an exercise in boundless possibilities.

Since Tuesday, I have reverted, for the most part, to my daily uniform of blue jeans and sneakers – even for the second meeting with our granddaughter, on Thursday evening. While she is something special, with a world of possibilities, let’s not get carried away. Besides, I seem to be running out of clean shirts.

About the Author
Rabbi Alan Rosenbaum is the vice-president of Davka Corporation ( one of the world's leading developers of Jewish educational software. He has lived in Israel since 1996, and writes extensively about Jewish life in Israel for the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, and other publications.