When four o’clock rolls around and I still haven’t heard from Clay, I redirect my obsessive mind to real estate like a heat-seeking missile in search of an alternative target. Ha! I’ll show them, I think. I’ll rent a house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for the last week of August. Clay and Tamar, desperate to escape the pea-soup swamp of Washington, will jump at the offer to join us—and bring Isabelle. Seven days of unrestricted access! If this is as calculating on my part as it is generous, so be it.
I wonder if my besotted state is normal. I’m not sure, since I’m the first among my peers to become a grandmother. I know my nana adored me, but was she positively blotto? My own mother wasn’t exactly a role model in the grandmotherly love department, especially when Clay was a baby. The look on her face, preserved in photographs, when she visited my common-law husband and me at our run-down farmhouse in British Columbia, was one of undisguised horror. OK, so there was a dead cow lying outside in the barnyard and a multigenerational family of mice sharing our kitchen. Still, there was a baby. My baby. Irene, who didn’t seem all that eager to hold her new grandson, certainly didn’t restrain herself on the subject of my picking him up. “Too much” was the verdict. This became her battle cry throughout Clay’s childhood: “You spoil him. He’s a mama’s boy.” So if I was guilty of being a mother who loved too much, did that mean that now, as a grandmother, I was doomed to repeat the same terrible crime?
By late Tuesday morning, I start to panic. It’s been more than 36 hours since I’ve had any contact with Clay or Tamar. Did something awful happen to Isabelle? Then I have another alarming thought: Maybe I’ve done something unforgivable and they’re royally pissed. Even more troubling is the possibility that they’re plotting to leave Washington and move back to Europe.
I tell myself to get a grip.
Still, ever since they landed in Washington, there have been steady rumblings of discontent: The weather is disgusting. You have to drive to the suburbs to buy anything. And the most damning: Everybody’s a lawyer.
Luckily, I’m enough in touch with reality to talk myself down. They’re probably just exhausted. And I’m the grandparent, not the parent. I have my own life, something I’m prone to forget.
After all the useless mental spinning, I decide to launch a verbal weather balloon. “Hi, just checking in,” I say breezily when I get the recorded message on Clay’s cell phone. “I’m going to the farmers’ market today. Do you want anything?”
Food prevails, and within minutes Clay e-mails me. Yes, he’d love some baby romaine, baby arugula and zucchini blossoms. He doesn’t mention fleeing the country or banning me from seeing my granddaughter.
Tamar is napping when I deliver the baby vegetables, and Clay asks if I’d mind holding Isabelle while he prepares dinner. “Oh, no,” I say, “I don’t mind.” So while he slices and dices, I swaddle her in the bright blue and
orange blanket made by Amanda, her step-grandmother, and rock her in my arms. I am getting my fix. So this is how it works, I think, starting to grasp that being a grandmother is a lot like being a relief pitcher.
Which is how it goes during the week we spend together at the shore. Everything flows smoothly, except when I ask to take care of Isabelle. This lesson is drilled into me after dinner on our first night, when I volunteer to hold her.
“I always feel like I’m depriving you,” Clay says, clasping his daughter firmly in his arms.
“I’m the mother, and I’ll hold her.” Tamar snatches Isabelle from Clay and disappears upstairs. He follows her.
“Sorry,” I say after them. I don’t make the same blunder again.
But 20 minutes later when they want to go outside to have a glass of wine on the dock, they’re more than happy to turn the baby over to me.