Well, really . . . not. You might have been expecting the sequel to “Details,” as I promised (stay tuned, though). This is not that post. After all, life happens, and life has happened. Here’s the beginning of the story.
The headlights frame the white Fed Ex envelope propped against the house door as soon as I turn into the driveway. Funny, I remember thinking, I’m not expecting anything. I haven’t ordered any books from Amazon lately (I still get my non-fiction in hard copy so I can highlight and flag, for reference in my writing and my work; I get e-copies of most novels), and I just topped up my cosmetics last month.
Curious about the package, I clamber out of the car in the -30° C cold, reach for my desk-in-a-bag and purse, and trudge to the door. I stare at the package as I fumble for my keys. When the lock clicks, I open the door, and stuff the package in my open bag. I stumble in, and drop the extraneous trappings of my day. The package consumes me. Its contents are square and a little spongy. I rule out CD’s—too thick and too soft. What could this be? I muse. Even more perplexing, the return address belongs to my son and daughter-in-law. No birthdays or anniversaries coming up. What might they be sending us?
Well, now I can’t wait. Bag and purse on the kitchen step, keys stuffed into my pocket, still swaddled in my coat and scarf, my glasses a little fogged, I reach for the envelope and yank the tab across the top.
I pull out a square baby board book, in French, about ducks. « Allons à la ferme » read the fat red characters on the yellow background, above two fuzzy yellow ducklings crowned in a stripe of black down. What is this?
Then, I open it up. On the first page, Dan has written, in black marker,
Cher Memère et Pepère, S’il vous plait me lire ce livre à la fin de septembre. À très bientôt, Bébé Beutel. P.S. Shhh, je suis encore un secret!
(Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Please read me this book at the end of September. Baby Beutel. P. S. I am still a secret!)
spins. I cannot contain my delight for Dan and Lindsay. I’m thrilled for us, as well, true confession, and I feel privileged that we will be able to experience another of life’s great milestones—grandparenthood. A conversation we had with Dan and Lindsay when they purchased a second home last spring, a smaller house closer to downtown, replays: Remember, moving into a small house and taking on another financial commitment is the best way to get pregnant. Now, how prophetic was that???
A few weeks later, we receive the ultrasound photo. The head is formed, and the eyes and mouth are distinct and individual. I stare at that photo for minutes on end, and imagine the personality in this tiny being that will be my grandson or granddaughter. I visualize cuddling it, talking to it, reading stories, singing songs, sharing tales, passing on the family history. I think, I knew you before you were born.
I give myself permission to dig around my tickle trunk for the treasures of Dan’s childhood, dormant for almost thirty years. It’s time to pass them on. I pull out his blue blanket, the edges a little frayed; the quilt my mother made for him that records his birth statistics; the matching pillow radiating the smiles of the yellow sun; an embroidered robe his godmother brought from Hong Kong, still pristine; the Royal Doulton cups and bowl he received as baby gifts, some of the gold filigree happily faded from use. At the bottom, cradled among the mementoes of his siblings, I see Harry, the doll designed to promote small motor development. Dan would snap one of Harry’s suspender straps and button the other, zip up his pants and tie his shoelaces. Harry needs a cleaning, I see. Best to wash him up before he makes friends with another child. Later, I pack these relics of Dan’s birth reverently into a Rubbermaid tub tucked in a corner of the closet, ready for our next visit.
We know now that we are welcoming a grandson. Given that Dan and Lindsay have shared their joy with their Facebook friends, I am comfortable relating my own awe as I grow into a new role in my turn, that of “Mémère.” Trepidation lurks at the edges of this birth too, as it did when Dan, our first child, was born. It’s a milder form this time, discernable nonetheless, wisps escaping from my hope that distance will not be a barrier to our relationship. My fondest wish is that our grandson will cherish his connection to his paternal grandparents as much as our own children treasure the memories they have of their grandparents.
Good life has happened for us, bursting through the illness and sorrow that weighs on us because it affects so many friends and acquaintances just now. Good life, especially new good life, trumps “Details” any day of the week. The best case scenario playing out, this story will continue for a good long time.