Mum … what would you say if I was pregnant? Two years ago, this is how FirstBorn introduced me to her new situation. Grandson N is now 16 months old … and the light of my life.
Of course, outwardly delighted about a young addition to the family, there was an undercurrent of fear around becoming Nonna, the moniker I chose after friends – with some amusement – began to call me Granny or Grandma. But dear reader, life’s stages are not always within our control and just as I became a young mother, I am now a young Nonna.
As N’s babyhood evolves, so memories of my own childhood have risen to the surface. My very first and cherished, is of being bathed in the green bathroom basin of the home in which I grew up, my mother’s face smiling above her plastic bathroom apron, embellished with a blue-purple brick pattern synonymous with early 60s graphic design. In the adjacent bath, my older brother and sister played in the shallow water. I was conscious that one day I may be big enough to do that too. The taps, I recall, were enormous.
When giving N a bath for the very first time another bathing memory arose, of being immersed into scalding water by an Italian au pair, my screams ending only with the arrival of my Mother whose distress and fury ejected said au pair back to Italy within days. She later recalled that my whole body was salmon pink, my brother yet to be introduced to the water stood next to the bath, crying.
Watching N explore his environment in the garden prompted other memories; protests about eating my food led to accusations of ingratitude and tales of starving children. My response was to forage outside because after all, if soil was edible there would be no starvation. I soon changed my mind; it tasted disgusting.
When Mother talked of holes in the Ozone Layer I somehow thought this meant that air was escaping and would lead to a shortage for the world; in my innocence, I consciously began to take very shallow breaths, hoping I suppose to ameliorate this imagined situation. To this very day I struggle to breathe deeply, something I am told regularly by fitness instructors, needs to change.
And now to new memories of long walks with N, old enough to push his buggy, run around and use the playground; Victoria Park swings are designed to take a toddler on one side and a bigger person on the other – his laughter when I join him for a to-and-fro is a joy, as we swing ever higher to even greater hilarity, mine as much as his.
As we walk home he stops to observe people seated on benches; they talk to him and he is often unwilling to move on. Recently he stopped to engage with two boys in their late teens who we passed near the canal by our house; they chatted to him admiring to me his chutzpah, smile and steady gaze. We tried repeatedly to continue home but he returned to them again and again wanting quite clearly, to join in with the Big Boys.
N and I spend every Monday afternoon together; if it is raining we stay inside to play with bricks and hoops, we dance and tinker on the electric keyboard placed onto the coffee table. I chase him around the house on all fours growling like a bear … and so it goes. Our time together is as much fun for me as for him, perhaps even more. His gales of laughter are addictive. His first few tantrums with me were dealt with by lying next to him, matching his fit of pique; the look of astonishment on his face ending the episode.
Our tupperware cupboard can involve at least a half hour of emptying and rearranging; remote controls and other portable things with buttons need to be kept out of reach. Our TV remote came out of the washing machine last week, having accompanied the family’s smalls through a wash. It survived.
Cooking for N is a joyful experience; like her mother FirstBorn makes his meals with fresh ingredients every day, the onus on savoury rather than sugary confections. It is fascinating to explore his increasingly sophisticated tastes; before leaving for Christmas he eagerly ate three huge spoons of fresh basil pesto, looking for all the world as though he could down the whole bowl. We experiment with different ingredients, fresh herbs, cheeses, grilled and fresh vegetables, barley, rice and more.
When FirstBorn was starting solids I would have a Saturday Cookathon, blending and portioning her food into little colour-coded boxes – blue for fish, red for meat and green for vegetable … no shop bought baby food came her way and so it is for N. I am very proud of FirstBorn and her grounded approach to motherhood.
At the heady age of 58 I became not only a Nonna but a Fiancee too, marrying in June this year. In the world of Fortewinks, the sixth decade promises to be one of the very best and I am wondering how to celebrate my 60th in April.
Anyone fancy a party?
© Giovanna Forte 2022