Hannah Darcy was born on 15th January 2003. I was in New York, under the covers in the very early hours of a frozen Wednesday morning, when my mom called to tell me. She described the new granddad, over at the window of the hospital ward – talking to this little girl, their first grandchild. He was showing her the world beyond the pane and promising her all manner of things.
Each of which he has delivered.
We were worried about my dad – he had recently retired and was feeling adrift. My mom (who had wanted a grandchild for ages, but had never applied pressure to ‘her kids’) is an avid bridge player – and when she retired she started playing more regularly. She had ‘her bridge’ (and the social events that came with it) to occupy her. Dad, seemingly, had nothing but endless repeats of Sky News: and we were worried he would sink into a depression and age prematurely.
Hannah changed all that – she reinvigorated her old ‘popper’ and got him interested in life again. For both of these warm, vulnerable humans – it was love at first sight.
Popper read widely on child rearing, on the role of the grandparent, on the best car seat. He watched over her as she ate, walked, learned to swim and speak. She taught him to examine life closely and see how much was around him. What worth there still was in all that he had worked for. But also to step back and see the possibilities that lay ahead for them both. My sister has always been open to having her kids hang out with other people – so ‘the wrinklies’ got to spend a lot of time with their ‘little lady’. Their enthusiasm for her company was returned in spades.
When Hannah was just crawling, we all went on holiday together. I would walk around our rented house hearing “pluff pluff pluff” as tubby Iittle knees tried to keep up with me. Once she found me in a headstand, made her way onto my yoga mat and sat mutely – studying me carefully. When I said ‘hello my love” she startled and screamed her lungs out. Trying her best to get away from an inexplicable version of her aunt. We had our song – “You don’t know my name” by Alicia Keyes: I would sing to her as I whirled her around in my arms. And she would laugh and laugh.
I’m remembering all this because my very first niece will hit double digits on Tuesday – and it feels like an end and an beginning. The end of childhood and the beginning of a whole new journey towards her teens and twenties. As we sat having our nails done for her ‘birthdate’ (a new tradition where the nieces and nephew can choose something special to do, with me, on their birthday) I saw the older girl she is becoming – studied, serious, careful: impacted by the challenges of the past few years. And I mourned the carefree little creature she had been.
These last years have taught her about divorce, about home invasion by ‘baddies’, about unemployment and debt and about leaving the familiar (and daddy, popper and granny) to move to a new city. She has racked up a lifetime’s experience before she even became ‘almost 10’.
Then she turned to me and grinned – fluttering her glitter tipped fingers and twitching her purple-laquered toes: “Suzie, my nails look just fabulous – can we go have coffee now and can I also have a brownie?” And I realised: we weren’t losing anything at all – our “little lady” was taking us all with her on this brand new adventure.
Happy Birthday my Rumple.