November 24, 2010 § 6 Comments
“Where’s Boo-ba?” I sing-song. The Pack-and-Play trembles. Slap. One chubby hand grips the top rail. Slap. Our grandson pulls himself up.
“Hey Booba!” we chorus.
Booba smiles (Ray and I agree, our grandson has a slow, intelligent smile). He gums the rail. “Did he sleep last night?” I ask my daughter, who is just a hand and an arm. The hand strokes Booba’s head gently. I hear a sigh. “Not really.”
For her first three years she never slept either. One night, after passing her back and forth for hours it was my husband’s turn to walk the floor. When she fell asleep, Ray couldn’t put her down for fear of waking her. I can still see him, standing at the foot of our bed, eyes closed, swaying with Josie in his arms. “You never slept either,” I remind her.
“I know Mom.” She sounds so tired. “Come here Bubs.” She picks the baby up and stands him on her lap. He jounces, bending and straightening his knees.
Shortly before having Booba, Josie successfully defended her dissertation and wrote a novel, but I have never seen her happier or prouder than she is at this moment, holding Booba up for us to admire.
I felt the same running down the stairs of our Baltimore row home with Josie in my arms. Sore and exhausted and just home from the hospital I had to show my baby (my baby!) to my mother and father.
Smiling wide, Booba displays his two bottom teeth. I put my hand on Ray’s knee—there has never been a more wonderful baby than Booba, except of course, Josie. “Pass him through the screen!” I beg.
Playing along, Josie holds him out to me, and I can feel the weight of him in my arms, the slight backward lean my body would assume.
My body has a poor sense of time. It remembers holding my own baby, as if Josie were that baby just yesterday. Pushing a cart through the grocery store I still turn toward the cry that all small children sing out in exactly the same voice, “Mom-my!” It is only after I turn, ready to pick up my daughter, that I realize how much time has passed.
Josie sets him back down in the playpen. “Mind watching him a minute while I get a cup of coffee?” We babysit virtually while she runs to the kitchen, trading a few more raspberries to buy our daughter enough time to fill a cup and add cream.
When Josie was a baby I had one of those “earn money at home” jobs. I retouched high school yearbook negatives (bet you never thought about why you looked so zit-free in your yearbook photo). I would barely have time to color correct a spot or two before Josie stirred in the next room.
Josie is managing a full time job, fortunately one that allows her to telecommute. But her “earn money at home” job requires a working brain. I don’t know how she does it–I still don’t know how I did what I did when she was small. Being a grandmother is so much less arduous–almost like cheating.
Booba turns away from us, watching his mother walk through the dining room. “I’m back.” A coffee mug briefly obscures the screen. Josie glances at the ceiling. “I think Marco is getting up.”
The sky outside our window is beginning to grow light here in Tallahassee. The camera in our daughter’s living room in Philadelphia is tightly focused. I can’t see the windows, but in both places night is passing. Soon Marco will come down the stairs. He’ll sweep Booba up—and in a little while he and Booba will Skype Italy and Antonio and Maria Teresa will have their turn as the flat grandparents.
I often feel pestered and crowded by technology, but seeing our grandson every day, no matter how grainy or flat, makes me grateful. On my walls hang photographs of immigrant relatives. I try to imagine their goodbyes. How did they kiss parents and siblings knowing they would probably never see them again in this life? The letters that followed them, slow in arriving, reported news long-cold.
How lonely it must have been to be a new mother in a new country. What would those immigrant mothers have given for a window into the homes of those they loved most so they could hold up their baby and share the sleepless night they’d just put in?