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.