My name is Gigi …. and I am crying.
For five weeks I have been immersed in my alternate role, that of ‘global granny’ or occasionally, ‘grumpy granny’. Early May heralded the arrival of my second granddaughter – a heavenly bundle whose presence has brought much joy to those concerned. Her sister, now almost three, has welcomed Harley Rose, and despite sleepless nights and at times a recalcitrant toddler, my daughter is weathering the onslaught with remarkable sangfroid, helped immensely by the calm that surrounds her husband like a snuggle blanket.
I am crying because I am leaving that little family. It is time. Five weeks is long enough to have a mother-in-law in the house, even if I do cook a mean cannelloni and am a dab hand at laundry. It is time to let them fend for their very capable selves, to get used to being a foursome, to make their own memories.
It is time also for me to return to the man who has my heart – who graciously allows me to steal his hard-earned airmiles – and who has supported every tangential path I have wandered in a long marriage.
As I sit and sip a glass of South African wine in the airport lounge I ponder, through the tears, my familial relationships. I grew up predominantly in Africa and Asia with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins spread liberally around the world, and yet over the years we have all known where each has been. Meetings might have been far apart but the intangible ties have always been there. Any one of us may turn up on the proverbial doorstep and an instant welcome, and acceptance, is assured.
We did not have the benefit of instant communications – and sometimes years went by without any, save a cursory Christmas card, but the essence of family never waivered. Perhaps it is this unquestioning acceptance of a global lifestyle that has made my continuation of it so relatively easy. This mainly unspoken understanding that distance doesn’t matter a jot. That we do have, despite the miles, close family links which help make relocation a practical matter rather than an angst-wrought endeavour.
During the last five weeks I have taken the opportunity, in between Gigi duties, to see aging relatives and dear old friends who, now that my parents are dead, are the keepers of my early family history, before I could track my own path. Great is the sadness felt for the memory loss of my aunts, both cruelly struck with Alzheimers but which has been a lesson to me to treasure every moment spent with my daughter and her family. If my memory is also taken, at least they will have snapshots of who I once was. It is those seemingly inconsequential moments at the park, at bath time, reading for the thousandth time the adventures of a little mouse and a gruffalo, of dancing to the ‘happy’ song (thank you Pharrell Williams) that form those dear little girls own memory banks.
I feel immeasurably lucky to have a daughter who welcomes the company of her mother, but who understands and accepts that mother will never be ‘just down the road’ to babysit, but who would jump on a plane in an emergency. To have a son who takes pleasure in his nieces but who is wholly accepting of their imminent departure from England to another island far away. Who accepts, and welcomes, the fact his own life is setting out on the same itinerant road as his parents.
And so as I wind down my Gigi role, until the next meeting, I dry my eyes knowing my family has survived the global trail – we are global nomads, and it looks as if my grandchildren will be too. It can be difficult at times, this life we have chosen, but so can any. But what I know for sure is that families do survive, and thrive, and that being a global granny will be as rewarding as any other role I have undertaken no matter where I am, or where they are.