This was the first of my published and unpublished stories about my grandchildren. Seems like yesterday. A new generation. Such happy days and hope for the future.
Six months ago, I had an inexplicable urge to dye my hair in pastel shades of pink, buy orthopaedic shoes and bake lamingtons. I don’t care for lamingtons, so I was relieved to discover that it was all about the birds and the bees. My son explained it to me when he phoned to tell me the news. I have notched up another credit to my long list of credentials: daughter, wife, mother, mother-in-law and now grandmother. I am a long distance grandmother. This news was a preferable alternative to visions of jackets that tie n the back and nursing homes for the cerebrally distressed.
I rushed into the street and accosted two elderly ladies on their way to Bingo. The amused and bemused pair shook hands and gravely congratulated me. I tried to tell it to the golden Labrador crossing the road and narrowly missed being concussed by a Volvo. The grand aunts, the cousins, the grand uncle, the great grandma were thrilled, chuffed and overjoyed, but great grandfather was confused because he thought he was already great.
We had a heated debate about my title. I hadn’t realised there were so many ways to say mother of child of my child that were both exotic and familiar: Nanny, Nan, Granny, Gran, Nona, Grossmutte, are just a few of the available choices. As mother to the mother of the child, the other granny has first dibs on a name; this is the protocol I’ve been told. She has chosen Anyu, a Hungarian title, which left the field open to me. But there were still weighty decisions to make. I could be dignified in pearls and twin-set or a homey milk and cookies gran. But pearls don’t do much for a five foot two inch dumpling and milk and cookies don’t travel well, so I’ve settled for nanna. It has style and doesn’t make me feel too old.
Because a two and a half kilo morsel has brought my mortality home to me in a way that arthritic kneecaps and failing eyesight has failed to. I’ve learned to adjust to my slowly disintegrating body, by ignoring it. The secret to feeling twenty-one when you are fifty-something is to ignore Newton’s law of gravity, and the mirror. Now I find myself checking out sagging chins and crows’ feet. It’s all downhill and across the New South Wales border from here on in.
Geographic restrictions have also put me at a disadvantage. My geriatric friends knit and chuckle over Jamie’s reaction to the zoo, Celia’s introduction to the hairdresser and the joy of Brendan’s first trip to the potty. I talk about D’s sunset smile, her winning ways and her nappy rash, as told to me by my son. Then in an unguarded moment I whip out my portfolio of D photographs, courtesy of the Internet. Timing is the key to being a successful long-distance grandma.
The brag book and the wallet are passé. D’s face, her biography – such as it is – and her cackles can be found on (web) site. Her doting and besotted father has created one especially for his porky princess. Photos are printed and placed in a manila folder for each family member and every stranger’s delectation.
With apologies to Kermit the frog, it’s not easy being a long distance grandma. D’s interstate and I’m here, calculating how much luggage I will need in order to take that trip and how often I can get away. With luck I can time visits for her first tooth, her first word and her graduation, by which time the luggage will include a walking frame and an embarrassment of pharmaceuticals.
I need to cram in the maximum in auditory and tactile experiences, to replay when I get home. The first visit is for her naming: she lies quiescent, bedecked and beribboned in her mother’s arms. At home, D dozes, eats then sleeps some more.
The second trip is on fast-forward and D is much more interesting. She already smiles and chuckles. She rolls over on her stomach and I’m the first to see it. I feed her milk and mush, which she generously shares with my blouse, my pants and my forearm. It’s all coming back to me. And D speaks! She says, mmh, mmh and mwa mway – a highly articulate child.
She’s a tender little tidbit. Several older types (at least nine or ten months old) have put their names down for that first date just on the strength of her brown eyes and pouty mouth. But they’ll have her daddy to contend with. Her daddy plans to gently guide D through her puberty and teens. The tennis lessons, the swimming lessons, the art galleries and classical music have been pre-planned. The kinder, the school., the university have already been vetted. D’s pre and post-pubescent years have been efficiently programmed.
But I have the bridegroom lined up.