Friday, May 1, 2015

A Week from Today . . . Travels and Life Changes

A week from today, my sister and I will be headed to the airport, excited about visiting Paris together. We're both almost packed -- she emailed me on Wednesday to say that I should bring the silver loafers (Fluevog ChaChas) featured in my Blazers and Jeans post. Previously, we'd agreed that she would bring her pair and I'd leave mine behind  -- our tastes are similar enough that we have several times now bought the same pair of Fluevogs, unbeknownst to the other; it's not usually a problem, but playing twinsies in Paris might be more than a bit twee. She generously suggested we could easily negotiate on a day-to-day basis, depending what we were wearing. I almost agreed, 'cause those shoes do look good with those jeans. But I think I'm going with my Vince black moccasins and the same nude Vince pointed-toe d'Orsay flats that I brought last year. And my Birks, if it looks as if there's any chance of temps above 18, Celsius.  . .

I'm thrilled to be travelling with my sister, and to see Paris with her, but I'm especially glad that the trip will distract me from another journey to Europe. I've spent as much time as I could this past week trying to help this daughter
 get ready for a great big life move. I've spent hours chatting with her as she packs and cleans while I follow Frankie around on the floor -- she's hands-and-knees crawling now, and so fast. And she flips herself into sitting and occasionally experiments with how she might get even more upright. All potential for falling, and a Nana has to be vigilant. She says ca-ca-ca when she claps now, copying the Clap-clap-clap singsong that her mom and I initiated. She smiles, wonderfully, with the bottom two of her eight teeth especially prominent. She lunges for orange segments and gobbles them gleefully. She flings rice in every direction as she works her way through a sushi roll, happily extracting little slices of cucumber, discovering the butteriness of avocado.  She sings aimlessly wandering melodies when I push her in the stroller, delighted or perhaps bemused with the expressive possibilities of her voice.

And she sleeps. She is happy, happy, happy, and then she begins to fuss, and soon after, she's rubbing at her eyes, and we all know it's time. So I walk her a bit, and try to snuggle her into my shoulder, and she fights me a bit, so I loosen up and let her shift around, and she arcs back away from me. But then she looks at me intently and she starts to sing, wordlessly. I take the hint (really, it's more of an order -- you'd have to have been there) and I begin singing a lullaby and she responds by moving back toward my shoulder. I keep walk-jiggling, but my arm is getting weary, so I shift over to the rocking chair and ease the two of us into it. She's okay with the move, at first, but then she rears back again, resisting, and she fusses a bit. But only a bit, and then again, the nestling, this time into a prime spot somewhere between my shoulder and my chin. Hard to nuzzle and sing a lullaby and pat a diapered bum and rock the chair at just the right rhythm, all at once, but I'm a Nana and these are my superpowers. Sure enough, within minutes, she's sound, sound, sound asleep. On my chest. Perfection.

I wonder what she will remember of me when we see each other again, in Rome, months from now. She'll be walking then and her vocabulary will have expanded beyond Da-da-da and ca-ca-ca, probably to include an Italian word or two. I'm happy that she'll have this rich experience of living in another country, excited for the whole family, thrilled that we'll get to learn an astonishingly rich city through their eyes.

But this week, I'm feeling a huge wrenching. The images of her -- smiling, fussing, playing, sleeping -- overlay much earlier images of her mother, virtual camera rolls scroll decades across my mind's eye. And they'll soon be overlaid by new images, FaceTime screens. If only those came with the smell of a baby's scalp, the feeling registered by the skin of one's nose as it nuzzles into the creases at the back of a baby's neck, or by lips grazing a baby's cheeks. The hug a daughter gives, sometimes beginning a bit tentatively but growing generously into a melding of arms and shoulders and backs and hands and beautiful thick hair on a head that you once knew as infant bald. Do you think FaceTime will give me that?

So it's a very good thing I have a trip to Paris to distract me. When I get back, it will be a whole new world order for this Nana. And life goes on. . . 

24 comments:

  1. She is such a beautiful bébé. I remember those "fighting sleep" times with Jeunne Homme...babies seem to have an innate FOMO. I'm also glad you have a trip to distract from the move.

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    1. I'd never heard that acronym before, but yes: Fear of Missing Out! Must. Not. Sleep. And then Boom, right? They're gone to Slumberland.

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  2. Brought tears to my eyes. They can be so hard these life changes. Enjoy your trip to Paris...

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    1. Thanks, Givi. Life isn't boring, at any rate. . .

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  3. Frankie will remember and you will have the time to visit for a longer time once you are retired. You must feel torn but you'll always have Paris.

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    1. Yes, I'm so pleased I'm retiring in time for visiting them in Rome. We have a trip planned for once they've settled in a bit more. And as you say, there's always Paris . . .

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  4. Our capacity for mixed emotions is really quite amazing, isn't it? FaceTime will help her to stay familiar with your face and your voice, even if the touch and smell functionality is not there yet!

    I've been enjoying your outfit posts, and am looking forward to hearing about your adventures in Paris.

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    1. Thanks, Georgia! The outfit posts always feel a bit vulnerable, so it's nice to hear that they're enjoyed.
      That capacity is amazing! It's not so much I feel this BUT that; rather, I feel this AND that -- so surprising sometimes at the seeming contradictions that yet co-exist.

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  5. I'm welling up here. Your daughter is lovely, as is baby Frankie. What fun to be travelling with your sister! I thought you were co-ordinating shoes so you could borrow each other's. One of the best things about having sisters (well, when we were young, anyway) was swapping clothes. Now, as a pharmacist, my sister wears white lab coats and black pants most days. So I always go to her house with a garment bag of jackets and purses and scarves when she has a big conference to attend. And we play dress-up for a couple of hours, getting her all kitted out for her meetings and functions. Just like when we were kids.
    I hope we get to meet up in Paris. That would be fun.

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    1. I didn't swap clothes with my sisters (mostly because of age gap, but school uniforms were an issue as well), but my daughters did with each other (and borrowed mine as well!). What fun that you can keep that practice going, albeit with a different emphasis now.
      Funny that none of my daughters can fit my shoes, and only one of my sisters takes the same size. Not the one I'm travelling with, sadly . . . ;-)
      I hope the meet-up works as well!

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  6. Beautiful.

    If it's any comfort, when Frankie's mom was small, we had only letters (which took weeks in the mail, or occasional phone calls (which felt like a considerable expense.) I'm so grateful for this technology. (And it works for the other end of life, a friend says her 85 yr old father is reticent on the phone but will happily chat for an hour on Skype.)

    Back from Paris for just over a week- unseasonably warm and those 2-week forecasts were not only accurate but a boon for packing. What fun to be there with your sister.

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    1. Yes! It is a comfort. I think of my Dad, the apple of his mother's eye, as he always said, the baby in a family of ten. He "went to sea" at 15, serving for 10 years in the British Merchant Marines before he married my mom on this far coast of Canada. Even photos cost a considerable amount to develop. My grandparents made one trip to visit us (ship and train) when I was 4, then my grandpa died when I was 7, and we only saw my grandma again when I was 13. Meanwhile, letters and the occasional parcel; my grandmother never had a telephone, and I doubt that would have been an option anyway. FaceTime/Skype is the science fiction future we chuckled at on The Jetsons and I couldn't appreciate it more!
      I love those 2-week forecasts, and the way they allow adjustment to make the carry-on case work efficiently.

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  7. Those are both lovely babies - and I know you will miss them tremendously. All I've got, right now, is that trite suggestion that it will be so wonderful to get to know them in their new world - which just happens to be Rome. But I realize that's cold comfort...

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    1. Thanks, K. Of the many varieties of cold comfort that there are, Rome is not bad . . .

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  8. That is bitter/sweet. On the one hand I envy you your gorgeous daughter and granddaughter (I have neither of my own, although life is compensating with my beautiful daughter-in-law and my amazing step-daughters/step granddaughter) but I can see how hard it must be for you that they will be so far away from you and I feel for you. Enjoy Paris with your sister and look forward to the photos and the blog posts xx

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    1. Thanks, Marianne. I have really been blessed in having both son and daughters. It's been so cool, though, to watch friends who only have sons develop rich relationships with their daughters-in-law. Sounds as if that's the case for you.

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  9. What a beautiful baby! If it's any comfort my parents lived in Mexico while my sons were small. They had no internet and the phones were iffy, but my parents sent letters and pictures and were fully present when they did see the boys. They became the favorite grandparents. It's not the same as cuddling (what a wonderful description), but somehow it worked.
    Lynn

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    1. It IS a comfort, Lynn. I'm so lucky that I live in an age of FaceTime and Skype, but I'm planning to exploit the pleasures of Good Old Fashioned Snail Mail as well (I've started sending my 6-year-old granddaughter cards in the mail now that she's reading -- such fun to get hers in return mail). And yes, being fully present when we do get to see this little girl again, which might not necessarily happen nearer to home where there are other demands on our attention. Thanks for this.

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  10. Your words evoke so well the process of getting a baby to sleep. And then the sweet weight against your chest that makes it all worth while.
    I feel your grief. We raised our children far from their grandparents and I felt that lack. Letters were little compensation for my parents, yet as the envelopes crossed paths, bonds were constructed and my children have wonderful relationships with their grandparents. I'm grateful to them for letting us go so gracefully when they could have made us feel guilty. You are exhibiting that same grace.
    Paris! Enjoy every minute with your sister!

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    1. Such a thoughtful response, Lorrie. Thanks for the reassurance that these bonds can be kept strong. I am trying my best not to make anyone feel guilty and to show my (genuine) excitement about the adventure (funny how there can be the excitement and the sadness, side by side, but that's life)

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  11. I have nothing to add to the wise words of others friends here, only to say that you express your pain so gracefully and that I am sending you the warmest thoughts for the next few days

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  12. I find this very poignant. Your description is so close to our experience with an eight month old grand daughter. She's near at hand now, but may not always be. You seem to be dealing with this very positively and I am sure this will be for the best long term.

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    1. It's such an intense relationship, but we have such limited control -- which, of course, is part of the joy (i.e., we don't have the same responsibilities as we did to our own children). Soak it up while we can. Thanks for your thoughts.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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