A couple of weeks ago, 20yo Mary rang from her remote community. I have known her since she was 11yo and I looked after her now-18yo brother, Maxwell, for a year during a very tumultuous time in their (and consequently my) life. They and their family consider me a mother. Which makes me – a nulliparous woman – a grandmother now, to both of their babies!
The other grandmother to these babies is Alice, who I have talked about before. Alice is the surviving sister to Mary and Maxwell’s deceased mother, so she has a strong connection to the children and their babies, but does not have the lifestyle to offer them much help. When Maxwell’s baby was born, I heard a story that someone had said to Alice “Helen is a grandmother now”, and Alice replied jealously that “She’s not the grandmother – I’m the grandmother!”. A similar story comes from their stepmother, who also allegedly responded in a smilar way when my name was mentioned. Given that I have no desire to be anyone’s “grandmother”, I’m happy to relinquish the role to the more rightful owners!
Mary’s 4mo baby had to travel to town for a medical appointment that Mary couldn’t attend, so she was ringing me to say that he needed to stay with me. He was travelling with her “little mother”, the 20yo daughter of her great-aunty. Oneday I’ll try to explain these kinship systems, but suffice to say that there are many mothers, sisters, sons and grandparents that actually are not mothers/sisters/sons/grandparents in the western way of thinking.
Anyway, baby DJ was coming to town with his 20yo grandmother, Linda, and they needed somewhere to stay. I was happy to have them in my back room. They had to stay a week because the plane only travels once a week.
I had arranged on the Wednesday night, to have some work colleagues over for drinks, and decided that a young woman and a little baby could share that experience with us, without any hassle.
On Tuesday lunchtime their plane was due to land, and so I tracked Alice down. She had been in hospital since the day I dropped her there, per my previous story. But she was discharged this Tuesday, and so I rang Marcia who had Alice with her. I said to Marcia I want to bring Alice to the airport with me, to meet DJ. “Yeah, and me too Helen, I want to meet him too”. Yes, but there’s not enough room in the car for everyone, so it’ll just be Alice and me, but we can come and see you with him”. Okay. She put Alice on the phone, who agreed to come with me.
We travelled out to the airport together, and arrived before the plane landed. When the plane did land, and taxied in towards the fence, I “remembered” that the baby car seat wasn’t set up in the back seat, so I went to sort that out, and by the time I returned, Alice was holding DJ who was bouncing around happily in her arms. She can always say now, that she was the first one to meet him, and I felt this would go some way to reducing any threat I might pose. Not that I believe I should pose a threat in any way, but it had been implied!
We drove him into town and straight to Marcia, who wanted to meet him, then on to the hospital, where he was admitted overnight. On Wednesday he was discharged and I picked them both up after work and we came home together for six nights.
On Wednesday night a knock came at the door at 8pm and it was Nana Alice, slightly intoxicated, wanting a cuddle. I answered the door holding him, and handed him to her for some cuddles. Linda came out and was humbugged to give Alice money, but had none and so after a brief conversation and cuddle, Alice left again.
On Thursday night my colleagues came over for drinks. It was the middle of a heatwave, so we were sitting inside, sipping wine, snacking on nibbles, and chatting happily for a number of hours. Linda and DJ were there with us, and DJ was quietly happy as he moved from one knee to the next sharing our company.
At 8pm another knock came at the door. I answered it to Alice, who was very much worse for wear, her hair a tangled mess, her eyes glazed over. So I said “Please don’t come around here when you are drunk”. She replied with “Take me in your car”. No Alice, I can’t, my friends are here and I can’t drive because I’ve had a glass of wine. In a faux-angry voice she loudly stated “Helen! You getting DRUNK!”. No I’m not. “You getting DRUNK! You can’t get DRUNK! You looking after that BABY!”. I’m not getting drunk, go away. And I shut the door and sat down again.
She didn’t stop though, standing at the door – a few metres from where we were all sitting, and shouting out that I was getting drunk! So I got up and went out the door, shutting it behind me, and asked her to leave. She stayed there, shouting at me. So I walked to the gate and she followed behind me, shouting. I asked her to leave and she continued shouting.
“Please leave now Alice”
“No! You getting DRUNK! You can’t get DRUNK, you gotta look after that baby!”
“Leave now Alice, or I’ll call the police”
“YOU not my SISTER! I’m calling my LAWYER about you!”
“Okay, you do that, bye!”
My neighbour was over the road swimming, and heard the commotion, so she got out of the pool and came over to ask me was everything okay. “Yes thanks, but can I borrow your phone?”. She handed me the phone and I pretended to dial the police and have a conversation with them, saying “Could you please come over to , can you hear that lady shouting? Yes, that’s Alice Green, can you come and pick her up? You’ll be here in a couple of minutes? Okay, thank you, see you soon!”.
She walked out then, and I shut the gate behind me after thanking the neighbour and returning her phone to her.
The next day Linda saw Alice near the shop, and told her what had happened. Alice had little memory of it, and said that she would come to say sorry. I haven’t seen her yet, but I know that all will be okay between us when we do see each other.
Meanwhile, we shut the gate every night after that, and there were no more evening encounters, and DJ went home with Linda last Tuesday, bouncing around in her arms all the way up the tarmac as I farewelled them onto the plane. I wonder how big he’ll be next time I see him?