Gammy

by

I am loving the pace of my life. I don’t need to set an alarm because Baby Cora wakes me up when she’s ready. I don’t set a schedule; we let the day flow naturally. We play, we eat, we grocery shop, we go to yoga, we go to story time at the library, we go on walks, we NAP.

I do make lots of lists. I love lists and I love checking things off. Without a schedule I need reminders of what it is out there in the world that I want to accomplish. I don’t have a job to go to. And for now, that’s wonderful. Maybe not viable long term, but wonderful for now.

We are together. Cora and Me. And sometimes Daddy.

Daddy works late often. He loves his work, but we miss him and he misses us. We are alone together, Cora and me. I recognize within myself that I probably enjoy the alone time a little more than I should. But Daddy is at work and I am an introvert and our families are far away.

Enter FaceTime. And Gammy. Gammy is our name for Cora’s maternal grandmother, my mother. Gammy is retired, so she doesn’t have a job to go to either. So we FaceTime, and Cora laughs and smiles and learns Gammy’s face and Gammy’s voice.

We are apart but we are together.

Gammy remembers the past when she didn’t have FaceTime, she only had the phone, and every minute cost her. In this instance, technology is a gift that brings us together. Technology and Love, together.

Having a grandchild leads me to wonder how my mom communicated with her mom when she had her first baby. That first baby was born in Boston and my mom’s mom lived in Chicago. I imagine they wrote letters, but I have no evidence.Travel was more difficult in 1947.When I had my first baby, Allison, we lived in New York and my mom came from Chicago right away and stayed to help for a few days. For Allison’s first 3 years we lived on the East Coast and we only saw my mother once or twice a year. If something special happened, I took a video of Allison and sent it in the mail to my mom.Now every few days, I FaceTime with Allison and Cora. Just like the Jetsons. I do “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Pat-a-cake” and “The Wheels on the Bus” with all the verses I can imagine. These days she’s been crawling over to her mom’s iPad to get a closer look and to touch the screen, which can be a problem, but Allison just keeps moving the screen and Cora gets a lot of crawling time.

Sometimes we get more than the virtual reality of FaceTime. Cora and her parents come to me, or Grandpa and I fly from Chicago to Pittsburgh to visit Cora in her natural habitat. We flew out there last weekend, like we do every few months.

I ride in the backseat with Cora on the way home from the airport and sing the nursery rhymes in person. She loves it! I get to touch her skin and smell her hair. She squeezes my finger.

We stop for a Lebanese lunch and Cora dirties the table and floor with her first attempt at eating spinach and black-eyed peas. The three of us together: Cora, Mommy and Gammy.

I get to see how my baby is with her baby, in real time. She is loving and attentive. She rids Cora’s nose of boogers, does laundry, nurses, changes diaper after diaper, gives Cora a bath. They hug each other and dance around the room.

They play. We three play on the living room floor. At 9 months Cora is curious. She’s working on how to use her hands. She brings everything to her mouth. Allison keeps her safe.
On FaceTime, I’ve seen Cora reaching for books, but now I see in person how she interacts with them. She sits in my lap. She turns a page, feels a furry tail, sees the reflection in a shiny bit. She pulls the book to her mouth to have a taste.

She moves to the floor, reaches for a block. She does yoga: tabletop, plank, cobra, even down dog. She sits and twists around to see where Mommy went. I do a twist, too, and feel how good it is to stretch. She’s a master of child’s pose when she naps. She’s our baby yogini. We do yoga together.

Gammy came and Gammy went. Day to day I am okay with our distance, with our virtual connection. But leading up to a visit I anticipate the physical togetherness with so much excitement. And when it is over there is a sadness, a longing. Those times make me wonder if I will always be okay with our distance. But for now we squeeze each drop of goodness we can from the time we have together. I wonder how Cora’s brain is comprehending this concept of Gammy. Gammy on the screen, Gammy in real life. Does Cora know that they are one and the same? Does she remember her Gammy? I recall my own Gammy, who is not here any more. She was a magical person in my life. She was stern but kind. She played the piano and loved to hear me sing along with her. She gave me beautiful jewelry, trying to pick things that I, who didn’t care much for wearing jewelry, would want to wear. I can see my mom thinking about how she will impact Cora’s life, what mark will she make, how will Cora remember her Gammy? With love, surely with so much love.

Home again, after four days together with Baby Cora and Allison, I look for peace. I have a restless night’s sleep on this first night home. The rainy morning puts a pall over the day. I sit with my gloomy mood, not so much like Eeyore, but more my own version of letting myself be sad because of the separation. I won’t mope around all day, I’ll do my Monday tasks and they will help me to move on, but not to forget. I don’t want to forget, I want to remember every moment of our time together.

Cora has an active desire to learn about the world around her, but isn’t mobile enough to get into too much trouble. Of course, she’d rather have her mom hold her than her Gammy, but when her mom was out of sight, I was a good substitute. She won’t be at this stage the next time I’m with her. I am reminded how important it is to notice, to live right now because right now is not coming back. Cora helps me with that. Other moments will come and go, we’ll be together for some of them. For now, though, I’m left a bit spent.

Tomorrow I’ll be ready to re-connect via FaceTime. My energy will be back and I’ll want to see Baby Cora crawling toward the iPad as Allison moves it from place to place. We’ll be together, virtually. And as long as we live so far apart, I am grateful for the technology that keeps us connected. Until we are together again in person, it is the perfect substitute.

Tuesday morning after Gammy has left we try to FaceTime and… “Connecting, connecting, connecting”… says the iPad. But it won’t connect. We sit, miles apart, staring at ourselves in the screen that says “connecting.” We give up and try again later.

Same thing.

Okay, let’s go to the computer and use iChat. We connect! But we can’t hear Gammy. Gammy tries to mouth a message. I am not a good lip reader.

Frustration builds. Gammy shuts down and texts me, “I am going to restart my computational device.”

It works, “Hello Cora!” “Hello Gammy!” No sooner are we connected but Mommy and Cora need to go. Daddy needs help, we have somewhere to be. “Bye bye Gammy,” we’ll try again tomorrow. Even with technology we can’t always connect.

“Love you Gammy.”