I.& I: ON BEING A FIRST-TIME GRAN – a journal, a memoir, and assorted rants
We’ve made a slight tweak in the programme. It was mad me lugging the buggy to South Kensington, then lugging it back home from Esther’s at the end of the day. Much easier for Esther to bring I. in her buggy, which I’ll leave there at the end of the day.
The improvement was immense. Esther’s buggy cost just over ten times the rock-bottom-basic one I used last week. And boy, do you get what you pay for. The other one is perfectly adequate, but heavy. This one, by contrast, is effortless.
We did a bit of shopping on the way home. The store was full of mothers pushing buggies, something you never saw when I went shopping with small Esther. Then, you parked the baby outside, lines of buggies outside every shop, each containing an infant. True, we lived in a country town; obviously you didn’t do this in the middle of London. But these days you’d probably be arrested for negligence. I can’t believe the streets are actually more dangerous, but the constant press obsession with paedophilia has left everyone looking over their shoulder for perverts and baby snatchers.
Of course, some people did this even then. I remember coming out of the bank once to find a woman bending over baby Esther, asleep in her pram. ‘What a beautiful baby,’ said the woman, an American. I smiled modestly and thanked her. She said, ‘Aren’t you afraid someone will steal her?’
I wasn’t. But then, she was American; perhaps they were more paranoid there.
We did in fact have a home-grown paranoiac. One of the advantages of living where we did was that you could let small children walk to school on their own. I saw Esther across the one biggish road, then left her to it. A woman I knew, who had twins in the same class, said to me, ‘Aren’t you frightened, leaving her alone like that?’
‘Frightened?’ I said. ‘What of? Men hiding behind the bushes?’
She blushed; evidently that was what she did think. She was so poor that she was only able to receive incoming calls on her telephone, but she sent her children to school each morning by taxi …
When we got home, I. practised standing. He hung on tight to my fingers and danced about on his toes, not having yet grasped the wonderful possibilities for balance of using his heels. From time to time as he did this he gave a sideways, triumphant glance, and a small, confidential smile.
He gave me the same conspiratorial glances and tiny grins as we descended the superlong escalator taking us down to the Piccadilly Line in Green Park, en route back to Esther’s. You could see exactly what he was thinking, even though he hasn’t yet the words to formulate it. Gosh, this is dangerous! But I’m with Granny, so nothing can happen and I can just sit back and enjoy it. Whee! And of course it was dangerous. I had my hand firmly through the wrist-loop on the buggy so that should I lose my grasp, it wouldn’t hurtle sixty feet to the bottom. One difference between us is that I knew this was possible.
This time, at the end of the day, I got a taxi back home. I was still knackered, but not quite as totally exhausted as a week ago. Maybe there’s hope yet.
Originally written Monday, 23 September 2013