My oldest son absorbed this information the way he absorbed most of my pronouncements: by ignoring them. Twenty months ago, he made me a grandmother, thus proving his long held contention that I’m not as young as I thought I was. Nor, as it turns out, was I immune to the lure of a newborn.
My granddaughter lives 1700 kilometres away. It is only recently that she has started to recognise this stranger with the loud laugh who visits her periodically. This summer we spent a week together – this time on my home turf – and got to know each other better. We liked what we saw.
Bath time becomes our time. I fill her bath with exuberant bubbles – neither of us are fans of half measures – and perch by the bath. I scoop up clouds of foam and blow it towards her so it lands confetti-like on her hair. The sound of the trains from the nearby station drift in the open skylight above the bath. At the sound of their farewell toot, we turn to each other and open our eyes wide.
“Toot” she says. It’s one of her first words.
One day, my departure from the house triggers a flood of tears from my granddaughter. I stand at the front door, incredulous, yet hopeful.
“Is she crying because I’m leaving?”
“Yes,” says my daughter-in-law.
“She cries when the postie leaves,” says my son.
Crushed, I close the front door behind me.
Later that evening we sit together on the sofa and I read a bedtime story. The Duck and the Darklings is too old for her – she loses interest and starts to play with her toy squid – but she lets me read it through to the end. It is a beautiful, whimsical tale of hope, and halfway through it my voice cracks.
My granddaughter hears the change in register and pats my arm, then goes back to Squiddy. I am determined to get to the end of my book but by the last page, the tears are rolling down unchecked. My granddaughter studies my face.
“Gran’s crying,” I say. There’s no use denying it.
She reaches up a chubby arm and circles it round my neck. My conversion is complete. I have found my calling.