It’s always the same now. No longer being carried in by a parent, a smile lights up my one year old grandson’s face as he walks in the door on his own two feet. And then, he gets busy. He says hello to the little ceramic bird figure that sits on the shelf at eye level, (his), opens the cupboard I store his toys and books in, (and then ignores them), plays with the switch on the cable box underneath the TV, (because a blinking blue light is more interesting than toys), walks into the dining room to open and close the door that leads out to the sunporch, (because that feels powerful), walks over to the piano to play a few notes, (because he can reach them), and then begins to climb the stairs, (because they are there). It’s like he is going through a checklist in his head; “These are the things I must do when visiting my Gigi and Poppy.”
Hanging out with a 1 year old during a pandemic is a lesson in perspective. The macro of life becomes micro. News headlines and updates that come at me in a confounding disarray are replaced by board books that tell the same, comforting story with every turn of the page. We work together on learning the theory of gravity by throwing rocks, the biology of insects by observing the tiniest bug crossing the sidewalk and cause and effect by seeing what happens if food is dropped from a highchair tray to the dog waiting patiently underneath it. If only research were this simple in the realm of observational information vs randomized trials and vaccine development for the masses, the world outside these doors would heal a lot faster.
In a one year old’s day there is no room for cumulative counts by zipcode, the confusing intersection of science and politics or the self doubt when deciding how much to venture out of the cocoon of quarantine. The many problems of the world melt away when you get down on the floor to play with a baby. Naively, I thought I would be teaching my grandson during the days I spend with him but I am pretty sure the lessons he is teaching me are of more value.
He is teaching me that even when times are hard there is room in daily life for love and laughter, smiles and giggles. Staying in the moment and only concentrating on what is right in front of me, (the block tower, the bouncy ball, the cuddly stuffed dog), keeps the unknowns of all that is outside these four walls from messing with my head. In a world that is screaming for attention from every platform available, his barely perceptible nod when I ask him a simple question is worth celebrating. We are communicating! We understand one another! Oh if it could be that simple in the comments section of any social media platform.
At times it can be worrisome to think of the world awaiting our grandson as he grows up and ventures further than Gigi and Poppy’s house. When those thoughts crowd my head I take his lead and believe that, one way or another, his needs will be met. At my most optimistic moments I look at his innocence and lean on a faith that 2020 will be the beginning of a reset for a world that seems like it is off the rails. Years from now I hope he will hear our stories of how when he was 1 something unseen unraveled life as we knew it and pointed us toward a re-boot that made the world a better place for him to grow up. He will be astonished at what we went through, relieved he has no memory of it and grateful we are all together on the other side of it.
Until then, we read another book with a happy ending, (he turns the pages), and then I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to him, (like I did to his mommy so long ago). I linger on that second line and say a silent prayer of gratitude that this little one is in my life in 2020 to “make me happy when skies are gray.”