I can hear him now, chatting away to his mum in between fits of shrieking giggles. I love this sound, just as I love the look of permanent surprise he has whenever he sees me. In my room, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the garden. His expression always seems to say: “WHAT are you doing in my house?”
For my house is now his house. I had not planned to be living with a baby at this stage of my life, but then I had not planned for a pandemic.
The economic consequences of Covid do not need to be explained to me, nor the cost of housing. As a result of all this, and having not seen them at all during the first months of lockdown, my middle daughter, her partner and their baby moved in with me. My teenage daughter also came back from her travels.
Suddenly, my house has filled up not just with people, but with gear. Baby gear. When they moved in, I went to the coast for a week to give them space – but there is no space big enough for the amount of stuff a modern baby needs. It baffles me. When I had my kids, my aim was always to travel light, with the minimum of kit. In truth, this meant training them to sleep in fold-up buggies so I could stay at the pub or the party.
I am staggered, too, by the amount of washing. Who knows how long my knackered old machine will cope? So far, me and the washing machine are still functioning. But I am worried about the spin cycle.
Little by little, I am getting to know the baby. I did not really know my youngest grandchild before: thanks to the lockdown, I had not seen him for months; none of us knew that we would be apart for so long. This story is the story of so many families. But he is a joyous little being. He claps when I enter the room and he loves the cat. What’s not to like? I know that if he cries, it is not me that has to go to him because his parents are here, so I can sleep through it.
Covid tore us apart and then threw us together again. Life is change, after all, and it goes on, whatever happens. A baby reminds you of that more than anything.
After the quiet of lockdown, a buzz has returned to my house in the form of this little being who delights, as infants do, in being wherever he is. My home is his home. The pandemic forced this move on to all of us, but now it feels not just the right thing to do, but the right way to be living.