We’re all familiar with Greenwich Mean Time. We live GMT every day, scurrying about, barely catching our breath to comment on how quickly the years fly. When I spend time with my infant grandson, however, I enter an alternate universe, as if I’ve hopped on a train on Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾ and exit into GMT 2.0—Grandmother Time—where the wacky whims of babies dictate how the minutes pass.
This realm of time is new to me, because when my kids were born, like every other mother, I—silly mommy—tried to live my life in real time, hoping my babies would comply. That worked out about as well as you’d expect; no matter how much I multitasked, I was a rush-rush stress machine whose life operated like anything but clockwork.
In Grandmother Time, the clock slows as I attempt to go with my grandson’s flow. When we’re together, aware of how fleeting this infant stage is, I expect to get nothing “done” except hang, the two of us, baby and granny. I babysit for a few hours at a stretch, ostensibly in order to give my daughter-in-law a break; in truth so I get an up-close and personal view of Emil, our tiny new family member.
During these dates, Emil and I exist in a luxurious bubble. Meals aren’t cooked, a home isn’t cleaned, adult books aren’t read, and email isn’t checked—unless the little dictator chooses to snooze. This doesn’t happen much. Emil, to the delight and shock of his parents, has been sleeping through the night since he was less than two months old, but from, say, six a.m. to eight p.m. he is a sentinel virtually always on alert, sizing up his big, new world while he does aerobics, kicking his legs, flinging his arms, batting his mobile, lifting his head, and practicing his flip turns. There is also singing and dancing—he seems to especially enjoy our special Charleston—and yesterday, I propped him up beside me and for the first time, we read a book. Fun stuff. To keep me on my toes, Emil interrupts these antics, of course, with occasional grimaces and howls—sudden and sometimes long-lasting—that require me to guess whether he’s hungry, wet, dirty or in that Never-Neverland where he’s mad as the proverbial hornet yet fails to realize that he and I would feel a whole lot better if he’d give it rest.
When my daughter-in-law returns—a bit refreshed, I hope—I snap back to GMT. Yet when I leave, increasingly, I’ve been trying to take a bit of baby-Zen along with me, struggling to stay in the present tense rather than ruminate about the past or future. That is, unless my head is wrapped around happy memories. Emil is already giving me plenty of those along with returning recollections of those sweet forgotten years in his father and uncle’s life, when they, too, were twelve pounds and everyone wondered if their eyes would turn brown.
Sally Koslow is the author of four novels and the non-fiction book, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest. She became a grandmother in June, 2012.
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