Wednesday, March 08, 2006

5 day mamma

My brother was coming to this part of Canada for work.
He and my sister in-law called a couple of months ago and tentatively asked ‘would we like it if my 4 year old nephew came along?’
He would stay with us while my brother was busy with work related meetings.
My sister-in law would have a chance to spend time alone with their newborn.
It took me a nanosecond to say YES.

My brother calls my nephew ‘Bubba’ or ‘Bubs’. I have no idea why. He’s not a Bubba at all.
He is a little smaller than most boys his age.
He has an impish face, with big brown eyes and long long eyelashes.
His skin is a gorgeous mix of his mothers (she’s Swedish - very pale, very blond) and my brothers (Indian, wheatish brown) complexion.
I love him to death.
Have done since the minute he was born.

I’m not sure how much time I’ve actually spent so far with my one and only nephew. I’ve visited my brother 5 times (I think) since he was born. Three of those were IVF related visited. My brother & family, have been back to Ontario 3 times but those have been visits to parents. This was going to be different. I would have Bubs all to myself and would have to do ‘mommy’ things not ‘aunt’ things. I think my brother and sister-in-law may have concocted this idea specifically to give me a chance to play mom for a few days out of pity. I didn't and don't care. I'll take it.

One day before they were to arrive, Bubba left this message on my phone.

'We are packing. Can you tell me, do you have erasers and vaseline and fruit at your house?'

Erasers, vaseline and fruit???

I tried hard to imagine what he would to do with these things. Was he going to use them together?

And do what, exactly?

I called my brother.
'He wants to pack everything' my brother explained. He thinks you might not have fruit.

'What about the vaseline?' I asked. Part of his nighttime beauty routine, I was told.

They arrived on Tuesday night after a 3000km flight and 3 hour drive. Bubba had a big hug and kisses for me when he arrived and immediately set about searching the house. He’s been here once before but that was 18 months ago. A long long time in the life of a 4 year old.
He stopped in front of the small room upstairs- the one I had always imagined would be the baby room.
“Is this where you keep your baby?” he asked.

No Bubs. We don’t have a baby.

'Oh' And he continued with his exploration.

“Do you have grapes and mandarins and apples and cheese?”

Yes. That we have.

That night he slept with my brother in the guest room. I was in-charge of the bedtime routine (tub time, stories, snack, brush teeth, application of various creams, kisses, sleep)so that I could see what it entailed, and so that he would not be worried the next 3 days when his Pappa was away. The nighttime beauty routine involved applying lotion his arms, eczema cream to some patches on his skin, and Vaseline to his windburnt cheeks. The idea is to apply a small dab of Vaseline and rub it in, but he slathers it on so he ends up with a greasy layer on his cheeks, forehead and chin which rubs off on everyone when he kisses them goodnight.

The next morning my brother left town for his meetings and my husband and I had Bubba all to ourselves for 3 days. From morning till night and every second inbetween. I fed him breakfast (we made blueberry pancakes one day- he corrected my recipe twice), we painted, we watched Thomas & friends and mighty machines, we made beaded necklaces and coloured together.
We sat down together for dinner, the three of us, in the dining room talking and eating like a family. Like a family. I wiped his mouth and sticky fingers after meals, cleaned his nose and dried him off after his bath and put him in his flannel PJs. We cuddled together in the bed until he fell asleep.

Early in the morning I heard him calling for me. I went to his room.
‘I woke up’ he told me ‘My feet are cold. Can you sleep here with me?' The big bed had been fine for him when he had my brother to keep him warm, but all alone the bed was cold, and I felt so bad that he had spent the night alone in the cold bed.
Poor thing! I warmed up his feet in my hands, put an extra blanket on the bed and fell asleep beside him.

I took him to the library and the toy store. We took a trip on a ferry, and went to the playground. He rejected the toddlers play area completely and wanted to play only on the ‘big kid’ climbers. His boots and the playground equipment were wet from the melting snow and I tried to keep up with. But of course, it happened.
He fell.
He fell hard and almost immediately a purple bruise developed on his forehead.
1 day! I thought.
I’ve had him for 1 day and I broke him. (This better heal up quickly or his mother is going to kill me, is what I thought next).
Big tears, real tears rolled down his cheeks and he started sobbing.
I scooped him up and tried to calm him down.
When that didn’t work I tried to distract him.‘Look, there’s a helicopter’
And when that didn’t work, I bribed him.
‘If we hurry home’ I said, ‘I’ll make some hot chocolate and we can watch Thomas’.
The tears stopped for a second and he caught his breath. And we can eat some raisins!’
Yes Bubs, you can have all the raisins you want. I tried hard not to think about the last time (over a year ago) that I had given him a raisin and he shoved it up his nose. We had held him down and plucked it out with tweezers.
I picked him up and carried him home.

You know why I love to carry you? I asked him.
Noooo he replied.
Because I can kiss and kiss and kiss your cheek and you can’t get away.
He giggled and squealed as I kissed his cold red cheek.

On Friday my husband took him swimming. He insisted that my husband pee before they left the change room to enter the pool. But I don’t have to go, my husband told him. ‘Mamma says you must always have a pee before you go swimming’ he insisted. And so my husband had a go.

By the end of each day I was exhausted. I couldn’t sleep late in the mornings. I couldn’t lie on the couch and watch TV. I couldn’t spend an hour surfing the internet. But I didn’t care. I was absolutely, perfectly content watching him splash in the tub, or spending an afternoon racing the same cars down the hallway, or reviewing exactly which of the Thomas & friends trains he already had (and which ones he ‘really really’ wanted for his next birthday).

We had bought little gifts for him over the past few months. A small firetruck, a New York taxicab (from our trip to NY), a garbage truck, a small packet of gummy worms, a jigsaw puzzle map of Canada etc. We had wrapped them and my husband placed them in different places in the house for Bubba to discover. Each time he found a package, he would shyly approach one of us and then bring us over to the package to show us.
‘What’s that?’ he’d ask.
‘Well Bubs, I think it’s a present for you.’
His eyes would widen and his face would break into a smile. He opened each package as if it was the most fantastic gift in the world. Every time he found a package he never assumed it was for him. He checked with us first to see what it was and always had that same delighted reaction when we confirmed it was for him.

On Friday night my brother returned to our house and we were joined by my mum, dad and sister. We spent the weekend drinking tea, and being entertained by Bubba who was the life of the party. My parents and sister left Sunday night, my brother and Bubs on Monday.
The house is empty and quiet.
Everywhere I look I can find evidence of Bubs. Sticky handprints in unlikely places, a dry gummy worm under the sofa, his ‘artwork’ posted on the kitchen wall, a purple thumbprint on the bottom corner of the kitchen cupboard, his little toothbrush which was left behind.
I talked to him yesterday.
Can you come to my house on Friday or Saturday’ he asked. ‘We will go to the zoo and the park’.
That sounds wonderful I told him.

‘And ummmmm’
‘Yes’ I asked.
‘I miss you’ he said.
Yes Bubs, I miss you too. And I miss the family we had for 5 days even if it was just 'pretend'.


At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful. We just had a one night family of four--we kept my sister's two and three year olds. And yes, it was exhausting. And yes, it was wonderful.

Hope you get your own family soon.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Robber Barren said...

Awwwwwwwwwwww.... *sniff*

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Millie said...

Such a heartbreakingly beautiful post. Here's hoping Bubs gets a cousin soon. What a great older cousin he'll be. What a wonderful mamma you'll be.

At 1:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a sweet, sweet visit. What a darling boy. Yes, you'll be wonderful parents-- that bit about hiding the presents was just the cutest thing ever. That post got me all misty, and I was so sad when it was all over.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Catherine McDiarmid-Watt said...

That sounds like such a wonderful time! And it made me cry...

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nina, you could turn that into a book. It was so sweet. And it wasn't a "pretend family," for five days. He is your family, too. Just a different kind of family experience. Some of my favorite memories as a child were hanging out with my aunt. He's going to be a great cousin, too.

At 6:13 AM, Blogger Pamplemousse said...

Just what I need, Nina. More crying!!! What a sweet beautiful boy.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Nina you made me cry. I'm glad you had this lovely time with your nephew. I must go and borrow mine soon.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger zarqa said...

Oh! This made me cry and cry. It's the simple things that people who have it come easily can so easily take for granted. I remember being in charge of my two nieces once and the older niece fell and skinned her knee very badly. She was too old to cry too much about it so I think it hurt me more to see her hurt than it hurt her to be hurt. Nonetheless the clean-up job I did and the perfectly applied bandage I put on would have put the best emergency room nurse to shame. At the time I was just fearful of what my sister would say when she found her daughter skinned while under my care. But really it was me trying to drink up every moment of the crazy exhausting experience of having a child to take care of.
You're a great aunt!

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Sheryl said...

*sniff* *sniff* oh my God that sounded wonderful!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Lut C. said...

A bittersweet story, more sweet than bitter it sounds like though.

It's good to hear from you again.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Sparkle said...

Sounds like alot of fun, amazing for you to have such a close bond with your nephew.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Family Ties said...

Happy to have found your blog!

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Nina said...

Oh, sounds like you had a wonderful time. This post made me cry too!

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Hi Nina ... Just found your blog from a link. Went back and read some of the archives. I currently live in Ontario, but am originally from the east coast. I am trying to make friends and was invited to a book club but am having second thoughts now :-)

I loved your last post. I have a four year old cousin that comes to visit me occassionally for the weekend. When he leaves I end up feeling very tired and very lonely.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger ninaB said...

Those five days were a little slice of heaven. I keep thinking, 'some people get to do this everyday'. Do they know how fortunate they are?
His new suggestion is that we come visit on his baby sister's birthday because "she will have a Monster Truck cake". Wonder whose idea that is?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger EJW said...

What a great kid, and you guys sound like wonderful aunt and uncle! How lucky for him and for your babies, whenever they come.


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