Soon after my mother arrived for a visit recently, Sean realized that by comparison, I was chopped liver, persona non grata, yesterday’s news, the other woman, what’s-her-name – not even good ole’ what’s-her-name. My feelings might have been hurt except that I was too busy taking advantage of my built-in babysitter and getting pedicures and going shopping to notice. Much. Ostensibly she was here to spend time with Sean, but I think she was here to spoil my child to pay me back for the years between 1972 and 1979 and the concrete mixing episode.
Most children call their grandmother some variation of Grandma — Granny, Gran, Gram, Nana, Memaw and even Mimi. Sean decided he would call my mother by her first name Vivian, or as he says it “Wivian”. Wivian was a really good mom, but she is a fantastic grandmother. In fact, I wish she were my grandmother. Then I could have had popsicles and animal crackers for every meal too.
The morning after she arrived, I went into Sean’s room to greet him for the day and immediately, I knew something had changed overnight. He didn’t give me one of his mega-watt smiles or joyfully call out “Mommy!” in his usual fashion. No siree. He craned his neck to look past me and waved me aside like yesterday’s Beanie Weenies. And then, as I tried to lift him from his bed and hug him as I have done every day for the past two years, he kicked his little feet and twisted and wrenched to be put down screaming “I only want Wivian to get me! I want Wivian!” It would have been less risky to reach into a nest of baby rattle snakes. So I set him down and backed out of the room with my hands in the air.
For the next ten days no one could do anything for Sean except for Wivian. Part of me was thrilled to get out of ten days of diaper changes yet selfishly, part of me wished he liked me that much. But beyond all that, I was happy that my child was getting to experience something that I never had – a doting grandparent.
I knew that when I had to return Wivian to the airport, it was going to break that little boy’s heart. And it did. She kissed us both goodbye and we watched the form of her being disappear into the mass of humanity moving in all directions. From his car seat he stretched his neck until it would absolutely go no further. His eyes darted in all directions hoping to catch a glimpse of that familiar head of silver hair. And when he realized she was gone, he cried, “I no see Wivian!” And then he began to sob. There was no anger or kicking or rage, just resigned sobs and trembling wet sadness. By the time we arrived home from the airport, he had cried himself to sleep. I carried his tiny body, heavy with sleep, into the house and placed him in his bed.
Several hours later, I went in to check on him and he stood up to greet me, still without the smile, but this time with outstretched arms. I lifted him out of his crib and gave him a kiss and asked him if he was okay. He nestled his face into my neck and said, “I be sad. I no see Wivian.”
“Wivian will be back, just you wait and see,” I assured him. She still has to get even for the time I drove her car into the neighbor’s front lawn and took out their gas lamp.