Babies, Boredom and Bliss
When a child is born, so are grandmothers.
“We’re not going in there are we?” I asked, appalled, looking inside the baby store my friend was determined to enter. I’d come a long way to visit . . . hundreds of miles, and she wanted to shop in a baby store? Quite frankly, I found those kind of stores boring, like I found most babies boring. I’d never been accused of waxing enthusiastically over little creatures who couldn’t walk, talk or do anything except scream, make a mess and demand all of one’s attention.
Turning on the well-worn heel of her running shoe, my friend shot me a steely look. “We won’t be long,” she promised, striding into the store.
Unhappily I trailed after her. She’s changed, I thought grumpily as I stifled a yawn and tottered through the crammed aisles on my high heels. Definitely changed, I thought sourly as she spent the next two hours oohing and aahing over everything to do with infants until I thought I’d go insane.
What can I say in defense of my once-glamorous friend who smelled of spit-up and who stumbled tiredly through the store misty eyed with joy? She’d become a grandmother.
That fact was responsible for her gleeful preoccupation in the world of little things, the reason she didn’t have time to dye the gray in her hair, the reason she’d traded in her classical clothing for jogging gear, the reason she couldn’t seem able to talk of anything. Except babies. And most particularly, one little grand baby.
After helping cram purchases into every nook and cranny of her car, I reminded my friend of a lunch date with our high school girlfriends at a hot new restaurant that featured elegant dining in an atmosphere that catered to people like me—tourists with hard-earned time and money to spend, who wanted to be pampered in a childfree environment.
I squeezed into the passenger side of the car holding a huge teddy bear on my lap, thankful that soon I’d be in a world of my peers where conversation would veer toward spas, salons and shopping.
But I was sadly, pathetically mistaken. No sooner did we get to the restaurant than my friend took out her wallet and proceeded to spread pictures of her grandson over the gleaming table, expecting us to ooh and aah over the bald-headed tyke with the toothless smile. Every woman did. Including the waitress.
But not me.
What’s the matter? I thought, depressed. Am I the only woman on the planet that dislikes baby talk? It wasn’t that I didn’t like babies. I did. I’d borne and raised one myself.
Lisa had turned into a lovely young woman. Intelligent, kind, ambitious. We had a good relationship based on respect, love and mutual interests. But I had never been what one could call maternal. And what’s more, my friend never had been either, I thought, glaring at her over a glass of wine. I couldn’t understand what had happened
We’d been teenage mothers together. We’d married and grown up with our daughters together. Together as single mothers we’d struggled in a world where we tried to fit work and relationships and parenting all in one. We’d been the best of friends.
What had happened to bring us apart?
I could only think of one thing. One word. Actually, two words. Grand. Mother.
What was so grand about that? I thought irately.
Months later, my daughter called. “Mom, guess what?”
I was filing my nails with one hand and juggling the phone with the other, trying not to smear my facial pack.
“I’m going to have a baby!”
The phone slid down my face as visions of gray hair and sweatpants filled my mind, and the sounds of squawking at all hours of the day and night filled my ears. I tasted weariness as I imagined trundling after an infant who needed smelly diapers changed while testing formula to feed a hungry, wailing new soul. New soul.
I burst into tears.
“Are you glad? Or are you mad?” Lisa shouted into the phone. With trembling fingers I juggled the receiver and said through a throat suddenly gone dry, “I’m not sure.”
Silently I tried out the unfamiliar label. Grandma.
“When’s the due date?” I whispered hoarsely.
Christmas in Seattle.
My husband and I flew over on the twenty-third. Lisa met us at the airport. Beaming. Huge. I remembered how that felt. Remembered how . . . how wonderful it was! How joyful! How expectant! For the second time since I heard the news I burst into tears.
On December twenty-sixth Bronwyn entered the world and stole my breath, my heart, my soul. My entire identity.
“Let Grandma hold her!” I shouted almost knocking my poor son-in-law off his feet as I snatched my granddaughter
out of his arms. I looked down into her precious angelic face and . . . burst into tears.
Over the next few days I fought like a dragon to hold her, feed her, change her. I shopped in the local supermarket with my hair pulled into an untidy ponytail, dark smudges under my eyes from day-old mascara, sleepless nights and sentimental weeping. As I sat in the market’s deli, rocking Bronwyn in my arms and trying not to get spit-up on my jogging suit, I reflected on my new heart, new eyes, new senses. And I knew that up until the day she’d come into the world, I had been blind. The miracle of her birth had wrought a miracle in me, one I could not get enough of. Babies. I planned to call my friend to see if she’d be available to go shopping next time I was in town. There were some baby stores I was eager to visit. I hoped she’d bring photos.
I couldn’t wait to show her mine.
-Janet Hall Wigler
¬ 2005. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and LeAnn Thieman. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.