It’s been a few weeks since the last post, which is hardly a blink of the eye on a senior timescale, but there has been a major change.
I was looking forward to the arrival of my first grandchild in a benevolent, gently excited way, as if I was about to unwrap a lovely and long expected present. What I wasn’t expecting was the visceral thump of gratitude when she was finally put into my hands at two hours old, followed by an immediate wash of love for her tiny crimson feet and hands and crumpled face that was as powerful as any emotion I have ever felt in my whole life. I would have died for her, there and then, without a murmur. When she was taken away from us and put into an incubator in the ICU I was ready to tear down the hospital, or snatch the double-decker buses off the main road and hurl them into outer space, so powerful were my dread of what might be wrong and my longing for her to be well.
The test results came back at last, negative, and she was returned to her mother and father. The images of those other tiny bodies remaining in the unit and the agonized faces of the parents waiting beside them will stay with me for a long time. Since then in our own family there has been the usual chaos of life with a newborn, and a Christmas of beaming adults gathered around the implacable little eating/sleeping/excreting machine. Now the holiday is almost over and the annual summing-up and turning-new-leaf time is here yet again. Writing has been on the back burner for a while, but I went for a walk today with an old friend who is also a novelist. Epping Forest looked exotic in the weirdly unseasonal sunshine and it was so warm that we sat for ages on a bench by the bacon-sandwich van, making up stories about the aged bikers who gather there. One of them had the full leathers and long grey ponytail although he had to shuffle with the aid of a stick. My friend was pleasantly surprised to find peppermint tea on offer along with the fried bacon, although I think she was the only taker. As we walked on we had a writerly conversation that brought the book I have been tinkering with into sudden, sharp focus. It was lovely, both the company and the gift of inspiration.
I have written about grandmothers and granddaughters, particularly in Iris and Ruby, and that’s a good relationship to explore. I think I have shied away slightly from mothers and daughters, or maybe skirted it a little because this carries personal weight for me. My own mother died very suddenly and almost without explanation when I was just ten. All the time my daughter was growing up, until she passed that milestone, I feared irrationally for the repeat of history. I don’t fear in the same way for the new baby – in fact, I have realised that I don’t any longer fear anything much at all. That’s the major change that has occurred. I have done what I needed to do; the primary responsibility for the new baby is my daughter’s and she is more than capable of shouldering it, as her daughter will some day be capable in her turn. It’s soothing and reassuring and, in a miniature way, magnificent to feel like a stitch in this pattern.
This isn’t what the book is about, not really or not at all, but the recent events and today’s focus have made me look forward to turning another page at the start of another year.
Happy New Year.