It was to be a quiet, uneventful New Year’s Eve. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were to play at a New Year’s gig with their band. Glasgow Girl went along to help serve food and tend bar for the celebrants. I was most grateful to serve as companion for Mousey, as I have not now, or ever, been a party-girl, and am bored to tears by the noise and bustle of large, raucous gatherings of the festive kind that New Year’s parties tend to be.
Martha agreed to spend the evening with Mousey and me, as she was entertaining no other option for this evening. I feel unease at having sole responsibility for this little grand-daughter now, with my bad eyesight and the lack of confidence and clumsiness that has come along with it. Martha and I planned to bring along a take and bake prepared pizza, a movie, Yahtzee and Dominoes. We spent some time on the 30th selecting a movie, buying the pizza and debating what games we could play after Mousey’s bedtime. We were ready and looking forward to the entertainmet of Mousey’s company.
We convened at RM and GG’s house at the appointed time, loaded down with our stuff. Mousey met us at the door with Glasgow Girl hovering nearby, putting on her shoes and coat. Mousey immediately forgot about her mother and glommed onto Martha, who seldom sees her and thus presented as great novelty for her. We got her to wave bye-bye to her mom and proceeded to be entertained by a steady stream of Mousey’s favourite toys, and her attempts at conversation which takes the form of completely unintelligible sentences, complete with emphases of tone and an occasional word which referred to objects. Of course when Martha or I asked her a question, she would nod and say a long convoluted reply which neither of us really understood. miming and pointing. Our three-way conversations had the surreal aspect of spending time with a foreign speaker where only small portions of meaning could be gleaned by us two older visitors, whereas the native, small person fully understood what we meant when we spoke. Really weird and quite funny.
Martha put the pizza in the oven to cook while Mousey and I dragged her high-chair to the dining room table and readied some snack for her to eat more appropriate for her tender system. Mousey ran into the kitchen and observed as Martha pulled the pizza out of the oven, slowly waved her little hands and uttered “Hot!” and commanded me to pick her up so she could see Martha slice it. She licked her lips; her eyes brightened and lingered on the pocked pattern of the wedges. She was eager to be strapped into her high-chair and drummed her hands on the tray part, quite excited until I placed her biscuits on it. Martha brought the pizza and placed it in front of us; we helped ourselves to a couple of slices. Mousey picked up a biscuit, sampled it, and tossed it over the edge of her high chair. She beaded me with her dark eyes and held out her hand, beckoning me to share with her. I plucked an olive slice and handed it over to her. She sampled it, made a moue of disgust, took it out of her mouth and tossed it overboard, like garbage; she waved her hand at my pizza slice and made a long, garbled sentence with a loud demanding tone that brooked no misunderstanding. I picked a piece of crumbled sausage and dutifully handed it to her. She liked it, and made impatient gestures to keep more coming, and be quick about it.
“Not a good idea, G,” cautioned Martha. “She’ll get diarrhea. You’ll be sorry later.”
I handed Mousey another, unsullied biscuit. She was having none of it and threw it away. More waving of her hands at my pizza slice. This little one has inherited her father’s cast-iron digestive system as well as his adventurous appetite. I figured a few bites of sausage, cheese topping and crust might not harm her.
After eating, I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her outside into the yard to look at the neighbourhood in the dark. She oohed and aahed at the Christmas lights on neighbourhood houses. We stayed out for a few minutes and she identified lights, houses, cars driving by. “It’s dark,” I said to her. “Is it time for you to have your bath now?” She nodded. “Dark…bath,” she said. “Dark night…can you say good night to the lights, houses, cars and the dark,” I asked her. She made her farewells to the outdoors and we went in to ready her bath.
Mousey did not linger in her bath for long. She was eager to get dressed in her sleeper and rejoin Martha in the living room. She curled up beside Martha and had an extended conversation with her, threw herself on her lap, inspected her curly grey hair, and wriggled and giggled. She dragged her blanket over, pulled it over the two of them and leaned on Martha and gazed up at her face while sucking on her middle fingers. This she did only when she was sleepy, so I scooped her up and suggested she give Martha a good night hug. Then we put all her toys to bed, in their appointed places, went back to wave good night to Martha. Mousey turned off her bedroom light and went to her bed cheerfully. She blew me a kiss as I covered her with her blanket. She grabbed her Pooh bear and fingered its ear. “Help Pooh go to sleep. He is tired and sleepy,” I suggested and waved her good night.
Mousey settled in easily and talked in a light soft voice to Pooh. Martha got the Yahtzee game organized on the dining room table. She went over the rules of engagement and scoring in the game. I had not played Yahtzee for many years. Mouse quited down, so we waited for a little while to let her fall into a deep sleep before beginning the rattling of the dice. I went off to grab myself a drink, and to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later, as I was sitting on the toilet, came a loud thump followed by sudden screaming from Mousey’s room. “Oh, my God!” yelled Martha. “G, get in here!” I quickly pulled myself together and ran into Mousey’s room. She was up in Martha’s arms, tears streaming down her little face. “I think she is all right,”whispered Martha. I took Mousey in my arms and placed her on her changing table. Took off all her clothes and checked her thoroughly; moved and felt her limbs, chest and back. She looked a bit shocked, but was, fortunately, had survived the fall unscathed. I dressed her up again and bundled her in her blanket. Martha and I inspected her crib. It was intact, so we figured she had climbed out by using her Pooh bear as a ramp to give her height to scale the side of the crib. Out came the Pooh, relegated now to spend the rest of the night on the couch with the other stuffed toys. I brought Mousey into the living room and cuddled her. She had not cried for long, and she nodded when Martha asked her if she was scared. She lay in my arms and snuggled down. Twirled her hair around her finger and sucked on her fingers. After some time had passed, as she could hardly keep her eyes open, I took her back into her room and laid her in the crib. She turned on her side and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep.
Back in the living room, I said to Martha, “Why did she have to climb out of her crib for the first time on my watch? I’d better report this to Glasgow Girl on the phone right now.”
So, I called GG’s cell. Told her what had happened. “How did Mousey fall out of her crib? Is she all right?” she asked.
“She scaled the wall, climbed up, and gave herself a good shock.” I told her and asked. “Has she ever done this before tonight?”
“Ooh, the little bugger,” replied GG with her Glaswegian brogue. “This is entirely new behaviour for her. I guess we’ll have to put her in a regular kid bed now.”
“This new change will give you and RM many nights of broken sleep. This next phase can be daunting. Until you change her crib she will now try to find ways to keep climbing out.”
“Of, dear God!”exclaimed GG. “I guess we’ll just have to suck it up. Got to go now and tend bar. Don’t wait up for us.”
Surely she had to be kidding. There was no way I’d be able to nod off later, given that I’d worry about a repeat of Mousey’s earlier performance. I hung up the phone and Martha and I began to play Yahtzee. we had forgotten to bring pennies so couldn’t gamble on the games, but I beat her two games out of three. She was disgusted with the fact that she had helped me make my winning strategies. We decided to next watch the movie, “Dream Girls”.
This musical had some wonderful musical bits, a couple of brief Diana Ross cameos, terrific acting by Eddie Murphy and was the right movie to watch on a New Year’s Eve. It finished just before midnight and Martha went off to her house to make sure her Jack Russel, Murtaugh, was not excessively traumatized by the setting off of fireworks in her neighbourhood. Of course, he was probably oblivious to any fire-cracker noises, as earlier Martha had dosed him with some dog equivalent of Ativan. But she frets about him and was eager to get home and make sure he was not having a nervous breakdown.
I settled out on the back patio to have a cigarette. A sudden wind arose, the sky was clear. People were banging pots and pans in the neighbourhood. Lights from the house next door winked through the gaps in the hedge. I sat there thinking that with my poor vision now this view appeared to be a scintillating, shifting dark scrim where pinpoints of light formed and reformed new and novel constellations.
Once back inside, I dug around for books to read. Before I got a chance to settle with a book about Scotland, Mousey woke and started yelling and complaining. I went and got her, changd her diaper. She was wide awake and resisted going back to bed. I wrapped her in her blanket and took her into the living room. We turned off the lights and sat by the low glow of lights from the Christmas tree. “Look…dark,”said Mousey pointing to the window. Then she wanted her bottle, but when given it licked it and then tossed it aside. She tore the glasses from my face, put it over her eyes and grinned at me. She peered through them and looked toward the window. “Dark” she said. Then she pointed to the Christmas tree lights and said, “light”. So I talked to her about how we sleep in the dark, and get up and play in the light, that now grandma was tired and sleepy, Pooh was also sleeping. She was not convinced and wriggled to get down and go about playing. I kept her wrapped in her blanket, on my lap. She whined at first, but soon acquiesced to sitting calmly with me. I closed my eyes and yawned at her. She mugged back at me, grinning. She fiddled with my hair, eyes, glasses; peered closely at me and tried to get me to giggle. I finally bored her back to a sleepy state and as soon as she was flagging I suggested she say good night to the dark and the lights, took her back to her dark room where we waved to all the stuffed animals, wished them a good sleep. She lay down in her crib, quite content and waved me good night.
I returned to my perch on the couch and opened the book on Scotland. Had trouble staying awake, so went off to tidy in the kitchen, polished the dining room table and finally turned on the TV, with low volume. Flipped through the channels. There was nothing even vaguely interesting, so I kept flipping channels. Soon, the sounds from the garage door announced the arrival of Renaissance Man and Glasgow Girl. “Mother, why are you still awake?” he asked. It was, after all 3 am.
“I want to go home to my bed now. I didn’t dare to fall asleep, in case Mousey might repeat her vaulting from her crib.” I explained how she had gotten up shortly after midnight and showed little inclination to go back to bed, but in the end was quite amenable to the idea of going back to sleep once she had been sufficiently entertained. “She should sleep through the rest of the night, quite well.”
Rumpole arrived, shortly thereafter to take me home. On the drive I told him of Mousey’s discovery of being able to get out of her crib, and how that could hurt her “You know, I’m surprised that parents get through this phase, sometimes relatively sane and unscarred. But I sure don’t have the stamina for the kind of vigilance required for keeping a toddler safe.”
Except for Mousey falling out from her crib, it was fun to spend the new year’s eve with her. She is an absolute delight to be with. But today I was exhausted. Well, that doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to have her in my life and look forward to all the changes in her we all will have the pleasure to witness during the next year.