Baby Teddy is now 2 months old, but my grandma only learned of her great-great-granny status this week when we popped round for a visit en masse.
Now, my gran (90 next birthday) can be a tricky person to handle. A staunch Jehovah’s Witness, my dad hasn’t forgiven her for causing a massive row with my mum’s vicar over the second coming whilst Mum lay on her death bed. When a Witness comes knocking at the door, frequently all we have to do is mention my grandma’s name and they leave with an ‘Oh, right. Bye then.’
Which is why, to our shame, we haven’t visited since the summer holidays. It’s not necessarily that we’ve been avoiding her, but the thought of having to endure her perspective on illegitimacy (again) didn’t encourage us to go out of our way to orchestrate a visit. There have been other things that have got in the way since we found out that Eve was pregnant. Including realising that the car had been vandalised as we squeezed our collective into it. The trip on that occasion was aborted in favour of trawling the internet for a salvaged wing mirror. But we didn’t manage a visit on any of the other available days either. Guilty as charged.
But we couldn’t justify putting it off any more. Besides which, there comes a point where it becomes embarrassing to show up with a new child having not mentioned them in the past. Two months already seems to have been pushing it. So instead we rallied as many troops as possible. Safety in numbers, Grandma can only pick on one of us at a time.
Actually, we only needed baby Teddy. Although the presence of the the latest member if the family had Grandma shaking with surprise, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. (I can’t blame her though, he is incredibly cute and very generous with his smiles.) As far as Grandma was concerned, Teddy was an immaculate conception. No questions were raised about his paternity. We were gobsmacked. Especially as my pregnant cousin was mentally marched up the aisle, as was my living-in-sin sister, even though there are unlikely to be any children headed her way future and her and her boyfriend’s relationship is strong enough not to need the expense of wedding bands and a big party.
On my branch of the family tree, I’m the only one who might avoid Hell by dint of the gold band on my ring finger. My lack of Faith remains a problem area though. Grandma nearly did cartwheels the year I told her I’d been to a Seder night. Oy vey! Unfortunately for my soul the only thing I’d actually come away with was a craving for matzo ball chicken soup.
My poor sister also got rounded on with the accusation, ‘you’ve put on some weight.’ Thanks, Grandma. Although apparently she greeted a not-seen-in-donkeys-years relative with a ‘My God! You’ve got FAT!’ not so long ago. Tongue-holding and sugaring the pill are not in Grandma’s repertoire. I breathed in before she turned to me.
Still, it gave my aunt and me two strikes on our ‘Grandma Bingo’ tick list. Marriage and weight issues. We were on a roll. The difficulty she had conceiving my mum and my aunt were our hat-trick. (Mum and Aunt were ‘medical babies’ due to my grandad becoming a physical wreck in the war. I don’t even want to think too hard about what might have been involved, seeing as this was long before test tube babies.)
We didn’t get onto the war stories though. Instead we diverted onto our Norwegian ancestry as my sister is off to Bergen next week (she now has been tasked on tracking down our branch of the Rasmoussens during her 2-day visit). And then to our adopted French family…and how Michelle has put on a tonne of weight since now in her 60s, rather than being a slip of a 16-year-old since she first came to stay with my mum. Can we tick the weight box twice?
No talk either about the neighbours, how the council were out of line installing new central heating and a new kitchen or how the influx of immigrants means the electricity keeps fading in and out. Teddy was the focus. Can we have a small baby with us for every future visit? It made for a far nicer atmosphere.
Ah, but then we were back into familiar territory. ‘A baby that is loved will never be naughty,’ Gran declared.
‘What about Auntie then?’ I stirred.
‘Yes. She had to be put in the airing cupboard at the hospital because she wouldn’t stop crying. She even kept waking the other babies up,’ Grandma reminisced.
‘You always say that I was always naughty,’ my aunt chipped in. ‘Is that because you didn’t love me?’
‘Well, you did use the neighbours best roses as confetti when you played weddings with the twins over the road.’
‘And I hid in the coal shed in my best white dress.’
‘And used your sister’s best French perfume as toilet cleaner…’
‘…and her vinyl records as frisbees…’
‘…throwing them out the window.’
We didn’t resolve whether or not this was down to a lack of maternal affection. Baby Teddy had wooed his great-great grandmother again.
Ah, families. Never normal, yet so familiar. I guess we’re lucky to be able to enjoy having five generations in one room, no matter the baggage and quirks that come with that. Maybe we’ll not leave it nine months before visiting again.