I got to Chico on Thursday, July 28. It was Alicia's birthday. That particular day she turned 23. It had been 23 years since I had given birth to her (also on a Thursday) after 36 hours of labor. I was hoping that her baby, Alannah, would come faster, maybe even a day after her own birthday.
When I saw her I was amazed at how much she had changed. There she was, very pregnant, ready for a party that night with Brian's family and with me. Her hair was straight and hung to the middle of her back, flecked with highlights of auburn, even a few grey hairs mixed in. She also was a mother. Since I don't see it day to day, I loved seeing the exchanges between my daughter and hers: Harmony. Even though SKYPE is awesome, it does nothing like the face to face, touchable meeting like the moment that Harmony ran out with Brian, her dad, to greet me. She was a little hesitant, at first, then after encouragement from both mom and dad, she hugged me and greeted me "Gamma!!" It melted my heart.
I had been looking forward to seeing Alicia, but I could tell she was in pain from the pregnancy. "Alannah is right against my pelvic bone! She is so waiting to come out," Alicia told me, not long after I got there. I could tell she had a lot of discomfort, and the baby looked low and far forward in her thinly veiled belly. To distract her, I showed her my suitcase, half of which were her birthday presents. As she unwrapped them (I love giving a gift-giver gifts. they are so appreciative!) I remembered I had brought a small gift for Harmony: a stuffed an imal lion that roared when you squeezed its belly. It actually scared her when I showed it to her. Although very cute, the roar was pretty realistic of a lion cub. Alicia said, "Here, give it to me." I did.
"Oh, baby lion!!" Alicia cooed to it, while Harmony watched, intently. "Did you come from Africa??" Alicia was stoking his mane and looking inot his eyes. "Are you lonely?? Do you want mama to play with you?? You do??? Okay!!" Then she handed the same little stuffed animal over to Harmony, who quickly clutched it to her chest, laughed and ran around the room. We all laughed.
The interchange was so happy, so beautiful....and stuff I normally don't get to see. That Thursday I got to see it. Grateful and happy, I delighted in seeing how I could be the "Gamma" of today, the one that is here for now. I held her every moment I could. I told her about her mom when she was little. I read to her (Harmony loves books and makes a point to always "read aloud", pulling her books off the shelves and reading in her little voice, beautiful, melodic, unintelligibe words that punctuate the pictures.
Harmony the day Alannah was born
While Mom and Dad got some much needed rest, I would read aloud to Harmony, play games with her (she loved to play "telephone" where she would get a phone call and talk on whatever would be her phone.
We went for walks arounf the beautiful treed city of Chico, mostly at 5:00 or later, when the shadows were long and the heat had died down. While Harmony loved the stroller, she loved walking even more, power-walking with her arms pumping.
My favorite times were bath and story times. Her bath was a ritual usually taken care of by either mom or dad, who she cried for the first couple of days, but they did let me bathe her every single day I was there, a gift that I was grateful for.
Since I slept in the same room as Harmony, I would hear her wake up. It began with stirring, then a small chatter, then when she realized I was awake, she would say to me, "Oh no!! Where's the lion?" She would hold up her hand, in wonder, twist it this way and that, to punctuate the question. "Oh no!! Where is the lion?" She would mean for me to stand up and get her out of her crib to find it, which she always did quickly, even before I could change her diaper.
To see the miracle of a toddler dancing, laughing, mothering her dolls, reading (albeit pretend) aloud is more than I can write down. It is the most delightful part of a baby becoming a child becoming an individual. While we all waited for baby Alannah, my greatest gift was to hold and carry and walk alongside of this precious person, this miracle, this peaceful, happy person who seemed happy to do anything yousuggested to her.
In the many days I spent in the USA the days that I spent with Harmony seem to be the truest, most incredibly special that I could ever have spent.
Harmony holds Alannah, two days old.
I will never be Harmony's Mother, and I will never be her Nana, Suzanne, the grandma that lives so close by. Who I will be to her is the grandma I was these last few days. The grandma that loves and adores her. The grandma who is in awe of what God does to her as He causes her to grow.