Being Grand

Did you see the Annie Liebovitz photograph of Queen Elizabeth with her great-grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren, taken to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday? The best part for me is the two-year old who proudly holds the Queen’s purse. That touch makes me ponder the Queen’s relationship with those little people, wondering how the tiny girl felt to hold that important handbag, and what she thinks of her great-grandmother.

I thought of that during the 12 days in April when I got to be close to both granddaughters and marveled at this treasured role.

Sweet Baby and her mother came north to our house when our younger son went to Alaska for a long ski weekend. We did all Sweet Baby’s favorite things, piling blocks, investigating kitchen drawers, climbing stairs and enjoying naps (everyone!). She relished the freedom of the bluff, and trundled a long way down the driveway on her little legs. When she tired, she’d hold up those irresistible arms and get a lift.

On Sunday we all went to the airport together, met her dad, and that family returned to California. Lady Baby’s dad had gone on a ski trip to Canada, so I went north to Downtown Abbey where there is exciting news.

In Lady Baby’s words: “I’m going to be a Big Sister! I’m going to have a Baby Brother!” In September she will be a wonderful big sister – and he a lucky, well-loved, and well-directed baby brother.

Conversation about Baby Brother is ongoing: “My mom and my brother are going to the parent meeting.” “My mom and my brother are going to walk in the pool.”

Lady Baby speaks often of the things she will do for him. She will be sure to fasten her seat belt, so if a car crashes into their car, she won’t tumble over on him. She’ll walk beside him when he rides his bike and put a hand on the handlebars (Lady Baby has a brand new bike of good size with training wheels – we could cover lots of ground on our outings).

Sometimes we played that she is the baby brother, and I am the big sister. As Baby Brother her language is limited, but his desires are complex, so sometimes she switches back to the oh-so-articulate four and a half-year old. She is such a thinker, and she’s working hard to figure out how this will all be.

I know it is the most common thing in the world to be besotted with your grandchildren. I hope the Queen has had long hours of playing and painting and walking the driveway at Balmoral or Windsor Castle.

And I know she loves all those children. I worried when I was pregnant with our younger son that I couldn’t love anyone, ever, so much as I loved his big brother – and then was jolted by an overwhelming feeling of loving the newborn, of loving them both. And so it always is.

It’s so corny to talk about love (do we say that to keep from admitting how important?). It’s complicated and takes so many forms – love helped the young mothers hold down the forts so the dads could go skiing, and love flooded Sweet Baby’s face at the airport reunion. (She clung to him, and her little face crumpled when he tried to put her down to help with the luggage.) And love led Lady Baby out of bed in the middle of the night to get her dad’s wool slippers and put them under her bed (to keep them safe).

The more love there is, the more love there is.

Lady Baby painting