Thursday, 3 October 2013

Letter to an Eleven-Month Old.

Dear Small Grand-daughter,
In a house that is silent but for the ticking clocks and the faint hum of electrical things at work I sit near to your alarm. The red light glows steadily, and the green lights do not flicker. You are sleeping upstairs and your parents are out, celebrating their wedding anniversary.
Their third wedding anniversary, nearly your first birthday.

Your first birthday, the seventh anniversary of my husband's death, and very sadly I am your only grandparent.
In this quiet house I sit and think, and promise I will do my best; my best to be the sort of Grandmother found in traditional tales, who makes and bakes and creates and reads and writes for you.
The sort of Grandmother who encourages growth, and who can watch you for hours, developing in your own special way, becoming such a strong little person.
The sort of Grandmother who can say 'no' when necessary for your safety and 'yes' when necessary for your growth. Who can stand back as well as step in.

A few months ago I thought you would hurt yourself in learning to crawl. You didn't. You just got on and did it when you knew you could.
Now you are so nearly walking, but doing it with considerable care, testing hand-holds, checking reaching distances, lowering yourself carefully back to ground level if you're not sure.
I respect your judgement, your self-knowledge, which may seem a strange thing to think of someone not yet one year old.
But I do.
I respect your baby dignity.

I enjoy your company.
In the morning we let your parents have a lie-in, and you and I enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the sunshine.
Very leisurely, as you select fragments of toast and fruit and breakfast cereal one at a time, commenting on each, occasionally passing scraps to me and looking for my reaction.
I realise that your father may not have been given this level of relaxed individual attention when he was your age. I had to multi-task, providing for several others, working to a tight time schedule. I would probably have mopped at his buttery hands and cleaned up the high-chair tray if he was taking too long and I had to get his big brother to play-group.
But you and I can take our time and appreciate the fact that no two squares of toast are the same, each being worthy of examination and exclamation.

Eventually we move into another room when there is a large coffee table, exactly the right height to support you in your standing practice.
Round and round you go, your hands, still buttery I realise, making a pattern of perfect prints on the glass surface.
Any other person doing this might have their prints wiped off smartish, but a week later yours are still there. It is right for you to imprint this house, just as the rest of the family has done. So I photograph them........then I wipe them off, because not all my visitors would appreciate their significance. But I want a record of your imprints, just as I have your growth record notched into the kitchen door frame (and you're already twice as tall as the late dog. All family members get notched here).

I may not be able to run about so much these days, but there is the happy realisation that we can explore and chat and read books, listen to different sorts of music and do so many, many other things because what I can really give you is my time, my listening, my hearing.
And my respect.

Happy, happy exploration, Little One,
With love from Grandma.


Joan said...

So much love! Thank you, too, for the delightful picture. It makes my fingertips remember how soft and silky baby hair is...

marigold jam said...

Lucky child to have such a lovely Grandma. I never had one but my daughter had two and her relationsips with them both were special - I loved to see their patience when I was so impatient, how my mother was happy to allow all her saucepans and saved plastic cartons etc to be removed from the cupboards and played with, the little grey pastry morsels eaten with such relish and real love offered at all times. It's something special grandmother's love I am sure. Your grandchild will enjoy reading what you have written one day and realise how fortunate she has been.

Isabelle said...

How lovely! Beautifully put, and I'm so sorry that your husband isn't there to see his granddaughter. When I look at my grandchildren I think about my parents and my husband's parents and wish that they could see them. Sigh.

I too relish the time I have available to spend with my Nicholas and Louisa. I too was always rushing when mine were small - the second and third, anyway. It's lovely now to allow the chaos and just tidy it up when they go away.

Relatively Retiring said...

Joan, Marigold and Isabelle: thank you for your comments. Before this happened to me I didn't realise how special the relationship can be with a grandchild, and how privileged one is to have these special times.

Elephant's Child said...

Such a beautiful exposition of a wonderful relationship. I never knew any of my relatives but you are precisely the sort of grandmother I yearned for. And I love that you have the time to share with her, and love even more your recognition of her powers of judgement and self knowledge. Lucky granddaughter - lucky grandmother...

pohanginapete said...

That's a beautiful post. Delightful.

I've been lucky over the years to have had a succession of next door's grandkids who seem to like coming over to visit me on my verandah and bend my ear about, well, pretty much anything that takes their interest. It does me good.

Zhoen said...

Why am I crying? Oh, yeah.

She is the most fortunate child.

Relatively Retiring said...

E.C.,P.Pete and Zhoen: thank you for your generous comments.
She has already taught me a lot about the value of time, and of real listening (and she's not even talking yet!). I think those are the most valuable things we can give to any child, and it's a privilege to be able to offer them.
P.S. Adults seem to like them, too!

Jenny Woolf said...

A beautiful post. What a lucky granddaughter you have. I love the idea of photographing her baby prints.

Fire Bird said...

this is beautiful, especially the finger prints on the coffee table and how you left them there

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny; thank you. I'm a lucky Grandma!
Firebird: thank you, too. Baby hand-prints seem to be extremely honourable household stains.

Relatively Retiring said...
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JO said...

What a lucky child, having a Grandma like you!

gz said...


Leslee said...

Such a sweet vignette. They really do have that mindfulness, noticing each thing, that so many of us have to make ourselves do. But your observations of her here do the same.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jo, gz and Leslee: thank you all for reading and commenting.
I've just returned from a longer period of time for the two of us. She's become a real book enthusiast, so that's another great thing we can share.

Relatively Retiring said...
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