I’ve ordered my granddaughter a magazine. In pre-corni virus days, it was a weekly tradition that I would take little Rose and George to the newsagent and they would choose the comic with the biggest number of free toys on the cover.
As a journalist who trained on magazines, I’ve always been secretly pleased that “my babies” have the same passion.
Now of course I can’t take them, holding their small warm hands, to our usual shop. So I order them online. George’s comic goes directly to their house and Rose’s – probably because of my ineptitude with the ordering system – comes to us instead.
“How am I going to take it round to their house safely?” I ask my husband. “We’ve run out of rubber gloves.”
“Just pick it up,” he says. “I’m sure it’s all right.”
But I begin to panic.
Even my daughter, who is very careful due to her low immunity, tells me not to worry.
But I can’t.
In the end, I find a pair of winter gloves, put it in my bike basket and cycle round, leaving it at their doorstep.
Then I return home, my heart racing ten to the dozen.
I don’t understand myself. Why am I beginning to worry more now that lockdown is easing?
I know I’m not the only one, thanks to the lovely emails you’ve been sending in.
“I think it’s because we’re waiting to see if there’s another wave,” says Granny B from Eastbourne. “Or maybe it’s because we’ve become so used to being anxious that we can’t get out of the habit.”
Of course the trouble with fretting is that it’s catching…
As Julie from Cheshire wrote, “We need to be careful that our grandchildren don’t get over-anxious too.”
She’s right! Three days ago, I met up with my daughter and Rose and George outside for a socially distanced picnic lunch. “Don’t come too near, Gan Gan,” chirped Rose even though I was miles away.
“It’s all right,” reassures my daughter but Rose wasn’t taking any chances. She skipped off to the other side of the enclosed area. My heart wanted to break.
“You know,” said my husband when I came back to cry on his shoulder, “you may not be able to cuddle them. But we’re still all here. We just have to change our attitudes.”
Celebrating the “new”
He’s right. So I’ve decided to do exactly that. Instead of mourning what might be, I’m celebrating the new. Here are some examples:
* My daughter sends me a video of Rose reading her first story on her own. It takes me back to the days when I taught my three to read. I start feeling sad that I’m not there to hear my granddaughter and then I make myself stop. How wonderful it is that she can spell out words! Aren’t I lucky to be able to see her do this digitally? Besides, if I was with her, I’d probably give her all the wrong advice about pronouncing the words phonetically! (It’s all so different now and I never really did get the hang of it during my granny days!)
* George’s highchair (a duplicate of the one in his house) is still sitting in our kitchen. He’d almost been too big for it just before the corni virus broke. Now, in the videos my daughter and son-in-law send, I can see that the highchair has disappeared altogether because George is big enough to sit up at the table next to his sister. My first thought is sadness that he’s grown up so much since he was last in my care. But then I tell myself that it’s wonderful he’s growing up, big and strong.
“Can we move the highchair in our house then?” asks my husband. “It’s blocking the loo door.”
“No,” I reply. “I need it there to make me feel life is normal.” The same goes for their toys in the sitting room which they haven’t touched since March.
*Rose and George are both wearing clothes I haven’t seen before. (We’re on Facetime.) I think of the days when I would take them to school and Rose would say she didn’t want to wear a certain outfit. Then my daughter taught me to give her a choice. It worked. How I miss that time. But then I tell Rose that I love her new dress. “I like yours too, Gan Gan,” she says. “Shall we do a little dance together?” I suggest. And then I wind up the old music box which we used to play together and we twirl around – including George in his tractor T-shirt – in our respective homes.
*I should have been in Italy this week, tutoring on a writing course. But of course that can’t happen now. The irony is that before corni virus, we’d been “trying George out” with a lovely church friend who is a childminder so that she could cover for my two granny days when I was away. But the plus side is that even now that’s now off, Sarah has become a really good friend.
I’m just about to finish my column when my daughter rings. “We’re going for a bike ride,” she says. “Just Rose and me. Would you like to join us?”
Before corni virus, I’d have said that I need to finish writing. But not now! Instead of cycling, I take the dog and we have a lovely hour running two metres behind my girls. (Daddy had taken little George to the beach. As he’d pointed out, it’s nice for them to have one to one time each for a change.)
Of course, I’m aware that many of you don’t live near enough to do this with your grandchildren. But it is incredible what can be done on Facetime or by letter or in a simple phone call. The most important thing is to keep in touch in whatever way we can.
Then something else happens. I open last Friday’s post, after leaving it for a while. There’s a letter from a granny friend of mine who was going through a really difficult time a few years ago. She wrote to tell me how much better her life had become, despite the corni virus.
This really cheered my heart. If you’ve had any good news recently, we’d love to hear it. Or if you want to share a problem, I’m very happy to help out. (I won’t mention your name if you don’t want me to.) Just email me at email@example.com.
I feel that we have all become even firmer friends since lockdown started. And I hope you feel the same.
See you next week!
Jane’s new book… out now!
Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this but my new Penguin thriller launched last week! It’s called I MADE A MISTAKE and is about Poppy, a mother of teenagers and her live-in mother-in-law Betty who is a young 70 year old. The two of them are like mother and daughter. But each has their love secrets. Betty’s go back to the 1960s. It’s on sale at supermarkets, bookshops and online. Here’s the link.