Remembering the summer.
My grandson came to stay. Him, the new baby, my son, and daughter-in-law. They live six hours away. It’s been two and half years since they visited last. Different countries, different lockdown rules. All just trying to do our best. I hold onto my son as he walks through the door like I’ve been holding my breath. I need to take great big gulps of him. Holding his face in my hands, like he’s still my boy, I breathe him in.
We’ve Zoomed and WhatsApp-ed and all that jazz but holding him for that moment, feeling him in arms, even if he’s now the taller one, turns back time. Then my grandson grabs my arm, and we’re away.
I spent lockdown babysitting my grandson on Zoom. Mum and dad were both working from home and him, only 4, well, there was no containing him. So, for an hour or two, twice a week we’d sit together facing the screen, him in Scotland, me in Wales.
We played spaceships, read stories. We both had playdough, so we’d create monsters and alarmingly pink hippopotamus, that never seemed to have the right number of legs. Sometimes we watched a movie, me shouting in vain while he wandered off to tell Mum and Dad something important, leaving me face down in the play tent. I could hear Mum and Dad calling to find the phone, but the little fingers had pressed me on mute, so I lay hidden beneath the bottom of a discarded Iron Man figure for much longer than was dignified.
Our favourite activity was treasure boxes. We would sit, each on our own bed and rummage through my jewellery box. All sorts of treasures are hidden in there. There’s a ring that, when I wear it, reduces me to only speaking like a dinosaur, unable to tell the giggling boy at the other end of the line how to release me from the spell. There was the necklace that made my leg fall off, him howling as I hopped around the room trying to find my missing limb. He made so much noise shouting directions Mum and Dad came in and told us to shush.
So, when we meet in person, after all the hugs and granny kisses, the wiping of tears and touching of faces, the first thing we do is go hunting for treasure.
“You can only choose one thing each day,” I tell him as he stands all solemn, making this important choice.
“This one.” He says picking up two matching bangles. “What do they do, Granny?’’
“Let’s each put one on and see.”
For a moment there is nothing. Then we look at each other and we laugh. Then he laughs some more. That sweet, perfect laugh of a child you desperately love. So, I laugh harder which sets him off more. In a flash, we are both rolling around on the bed, every time we catch each other’s eye we laugh more. Tears are streaming. Mum and Dad come to see what all the noise is and soon they are laughing too. All of us. On the bed. Tears, and snot and that hysterical hiccup you get when you are out of control. The relief. The sweet release that we are all here. All together again.
In the end, Dad says it’s time to stop. So, we wipe our eyes and try to soften the giggling.
“Time to take them off,” I say.
“But Granny,” whispers the boy, between giggles. “Laughing with you is what I do best.”
And we’re all off again. More tears. More laughter.
Let’s hope it’s not so long ’till the next time.