As a young slip of a girl in my early twenties, I had visions of getting married and having children. As a young slip of a girl in my early twenties, anything beyond that was not part of the imagination. I asked my (ex) sister-in-law, Rose, if all those years ago, when we were sitting watching the kids play, did she ever envision us sitting having lunch, babysitting the grandchildren! Like me, her imagination did not stretch that far, but we are both now grandmothers, and neither of us could have imagined the way things turned out. Eleanor Roosevelt's words, "Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be", were never so true!
Sunday lunch was far more civilised than the previous week. Eight was a manageable number, and my sister and I found a space to sit, and even managed to have some lunch! After everyone had left, I took to task the obligatory vacuuming, before heading over to Rick and Steph, as we were meant to be going, en mass, to Oliver's swimming lesson, but a toddler in the previous class had been over zealous, and had a slight 'accident' in the pool, which meant it had to close for 24 hours! Instead, we spent a pleasant afternoon chilling.
Grandma was on duty Monday morning. Oliver was dressed in his coat and shoes, and waved goodbye to me, before realising that it was me who was taking him, and mummy was going to stay at home. He was not impressed! However, once in the car, I sang to him, which I knew would cause one of two scenarios. Either he would continue to scream (as most do when I sing) or he would turn off and go to sleep. Fortunately, the latter prevails and the little lad snored almost all of the short journey to the mall. Perhaps I was a little over zealous (minus the 'accident') in my choice of venue, as not all the school children were back in class! The first two floors of the parking garage were particularly full, and took the 'Tardis' (as I had nicknamed the car, due to it being bigger on the inside) to the third floor, where there were less residents. Proudly, I parked the car in the 'Mother and Toddler' spot, and managed to erect the push chair without much bother, once I had managed to haul it out of the car!
Oliver behaved himself very well in the bank, unlike his grandma, who caused a bit of a scene. As the queue was rather long, I decided to use the ATM machine to put some money into my account, and after it refused several times, due to my not following the very simple instruction of putting it, 'This way in', it finally took the notes, and gobbled them up. When I say, 'gobbled them up', it really did make a meal of it. 'Remove the notes', the machine told me, but before I could take the scrunched, chewed up pieces of paper, it closed its mouth, and I could almost swear it burped! The flashing lights and sirens kept the toddler happy, and he gurgled in delight, as his grandmother's face turned a rather deep shade of crimson.
The lady who came to my assistance was less than impressed. She had been called away from what she was doing, and was very busy. I apologised, and she smiled, although I could sense the 'Monday morning blues', and "Why me!" as she opened the front of the hungry contraption. My money was no where to be seen! She disappeared into the back of the shop, and came back a few minutes later, with a piece of paper in her hand and told me that the transaction had not been registered. Before I started to make a scene, she explained that the engineers would have to come and 'sort it out', and she would ring me first thing in the morning, to let me know what they found. Looking at her rather befuddled, she assured me that this, although not common, does occasionally happen, and she would take some details before I left. This helped my anxiety, as I was trying to work out how she had assimilated all the information about my transaction, if it had not been registered! Very kindly, she coaxed me into revealing my telephone number, and the amount deposited, and then sent me on my way!
The bright lights in the mall, and the variety of other toddlers, kept Oliver amused for most of the time, and although browsing was not a possibility, as he had managed to maneuver his way out of the shoulder straps on the buggy, and could reach most of the items on various shelves, I did manage to peer from afar at a few things of interest. After I decided that shopping was not an option, I decided to tempt him with something to eat, and he demolished, in every sense of the word, an egg and cress sandwich, most of which went into his mouth. After apologising, again, this time to the 'clean up crew', who toured the mall with dustpan and brush, I made my way to our final stop. Steph had asked me to go to the shoe shop and have Oliver's feet measured. I left this stop to the last on the list, as I was unsure as to how I was going to get him back into the pushchair, once he had tasted freedom, but he behaved impeccably. The young lady who measured his feet, was obviously an expert, and he sat more still than I had ever seen him! To my delight, and relief, he fell asleep in the car before I could deflate the pushchair, and drive out of the special parking space, and get the car down the narrow winding path to the road.
After lunch, I had a visit from another friend, Ethne, who just 'popped in' while her car was being serviced. It was lovely to see her, and she got to meet my pride and joy, namely my grandson. I decided after her visit that next time, I would message all my friends before my arrival, and make arrangements to meet all those that wished to meet with me. The Yuletide visit is always a little less easy, as several days are eaten up with convention!
Tuesday started early. I wanted to leave home before ten, and get on the road to Rose. However, that did not happen. I checked the opening hours of the bank, and their 'first thing', had come and gone with no word as to what had happened to the rather expensive dinner the machine had dined upon! Of course, it was impossible to find a number for the local branch, and I had to call the main switchboard. Naturally, none of the options applied to me. I had not lost my bank card neither did I have a question about my account (per se) and I did not want to discuss how to make my money stretch further in these hard times. My money had stretched far enough, when the machine decided to play tug of war! I chose a number to press, at random, and spoke to a very pleasant lady, who called the bank for me (without giving me the direct number!) and assured me that the engineers were currently working on the problem! I would receive a call in due course. She confirmed the amount, and my telephone number, which made me feel slightly better, but not much! I finally left my mother's house, and headed north, wondering where Junction 4 was in comparison to where I was going to enter the motorway, as there was going to be 'long delays'. As my route puts me on the motorway for one 'junction', I assumed I would not have too much of a wait. Famous last words. Junction 4 just happened to be my exit. The expletives that left my mouth were a disgrace as I drove down the slip road, to merge with the snarl up that led to three lanes of stationary traffic! Little did I know that all three lanes were exiting at my 'junction', so I sat in the middle lane and inched along. After about an hour, travelling a distance of just under a mile, I was forced off the motorway. Shouting at the sign telling me to exit, indignantly, that "I wanted to get off here anyway", I drove around one roundabout, and headed towards the next, which took me out of the long queue of diverted vehicles. The rest of the journey was problem free, and I followed my written map judiciously, arriving a little before twelve thirty! Vicky, my (ex) niece, had waited to say "hi", but had to leave immediately. Shortly afterwards, Ben and his wife Karen arrived, with their baby, Jacob. It was a pleasant surprise to meet Jacob, as he had arrived a month early, and was not due to be born until the middle of January. I cooed and 'ahh'd' over him, and had a cuddle. Although a reasonable weight when he was born, he was still tiny, and of course next to my own off-spring's off-spring, he was minute! I had arrived just in time to help his grandma take care of him, while his mum and dad went to see a movie! Not entirely confident that his mother and (ex) aunt were 'up to the job', Ben reluctantly bade us farewell, and with the baby asleep in the cot, Rose and I enjoyed a peaceful lunch, and a good natter! Eventually, the little mite stirred, and I picked him up. Changing the nappy (diaper) was quite the task. Rose was rather more gentle than I would have been, and removed the dirty to be replaced with the clean. After running down, and back up the stairs, as we had left the bag containing the equipment in the kitchen, we ascertained that there was no cream or ointment for the little one's derriere, and tutted like two old maids! "It goes on this way. Picture at the front", I told her, when she was trying to decipher which way round the nappy went. "I know, because I had to put one on the other day!", I continued. Between the two of us, we shifted first baby, then nappy, then baby again, and secured the protection in place.
Eventually, a clean and dry baby was put back into his onesy, and we headed back downstairs, so that he could be fed. I took first shift, and although he sucked vigourously at the bottle, he did not drink anything. Rose took over, and appeared to be doing a better job, but little Jacob appeared not to be hungry. We sat him up, we laid him down, we burped him, and we changed positions several times. He was not interested! We contemplated that perhaps Ben was right when he questioned our credentials, despite having been through this stage with babies, twice each! Every method used when our children were babies had changed. The laughter that emitted from us woke the baby, for a few seconds, as we realised that we had become the 'older generation', and were quite indignant that we 'didn't do it like this', in our day! Having eaten as much as he was going to, we gave up, and trusted that his mum and dad would have more success when they returned later that day!
Shortly after reluctantly admitting defeat, my phone rang. It was the lady from the bank. After a couple of security questions, and assuring her that I was whom I said I was, I was informed that the engineers had been, cleaned up the mess, and gone. Silence ensued, and she asked if I was still on the line. I responded that indeed I was but I had not heard as to whether they had agreed that I had deposited what I said I had deposited, or not! Had the machine left any bones! The deposit had been credited to my account, and I thanked my caller, most profusely, surprising her and myself, as I added, "These things happen". I did not provide a suffix of, "mostly to me!"
After bidding Rose farewell, and wishing her 'good luck', I headed home. I did not go back to mum's immediately, but made my way over to Steph, and bathed Ollie, before having a cuddle and saying goodnight. Rick came home around seven, and the three of us enjoyed dinner. I told them about the events of the day, and they thought it was all very amusing!
Oliver has almost said "Grandma" a few times, and has also managed to say "Matnee", to the delight of Samantha. However, occasionally, he has swapped the "M" with the "N", and as he sees us both in one screen when we are on 'facetime', we have joked that we are the 'lady with the two heads'. We wondered how he would react when he saw us separately. Steph had asked if I would like to collect him from nursery on Wednesday, as it was my 'last day', and I was very grateful for the opportunity of spending a little longer with him, before heading back across the pond. After going shopping with mum, I headed towards the playgroup, and waited for noon. I was met by a young lady in charge, who checked my crudentials, (I did not mention yesterday's debacle,) called Ollie, and said "Look who is here", he responded with a big smile, and shouted across the room, "Natmee!" Perhaps, like Matnee, this nickname will stick for a long time! Quite unperturbed that his mum had not come to collect him, Oliver allowed me to hold his hand and walked with me to the car. I felt rather emotional, as although he sees me regularly through the screen of the phone, we do not have a lot of actual contact. I took him home, and before he went for his lunchtime nap, he snuggled up close and watched his favourite television programme, 'Pepper Pig'. We had a final hug, and he waved to me as he was taken upstairs to bed.
I had a busy afternoon on Wednesday. I had paid for a tank of petrol when I hired the car, so that I would not have to worry about filling up on the way back to the airport. After two weeks, the tank was virtually empty, and I put in the minimum amount allowed by the petrol stations, which was five litres. I quite sure that this would be enough to get me to the nursery, (as I filled up before I took mum home from the shopping trip,) then back to say cheerio to my sister and niece, and then to the airport the following day. I had not taken into consideration that I would be required to make an extra trip into Bushey to collect a t-shirt that Samantha had left at her father's, and that she could not live without! The girl who has more 'tops' than a Pepsi-cola bottling plant, could not survive a few months without the piece of clothing with the picture of a 'minion' on the front! I did the motherly thing and picked it up before travelling back through my mother's village, and on to see my sister and niece. After lots of hugs, we said our farewells, and I headed back to mum's, where I packed my bags, and mentally prepared myself for the homeward stretch! Richard arrived at around seven thirty, and ate dinner. It was, as usual, an emotional farewell.
Thursday morning arrived all too soon. I was faced with several questions, as the final emotional farewell took place, and I waved cheerio to my mum. Would I make the trip back to the airport with the petrol gauge reading almost empty? Would my trip be uneventful, and all my flights be on time? Would I clear immigration and customs in time to catch my final flight? Obviously not all was smooth sailing, as will be revealed in ............. another story!