Three Generations of Females
We came for the weekend to stay with granny. Bea my cheeky monkey is two going on thirty-two, and granny is her favourite person in the world. Granny makes things fun. Granny blows bubbles and raspberries and feeds her chocolate and pop and wisdom.
Granny lives at the seaside and our first day here is spent on the beach. Bea is covered in sand and sea and ice cream and sunshine, and I decide that two days isn’t enough. It’s so fresh, free and untainted here, the air is different; it smells, feels and tastes fresher, warmer, dryer; the light is brighter, everything’s more alive and more cheery, and everybody’s more relaxed. It would be a shame to tear her away from all this so soon and take her back to the normality of city life. She and I both need a longer exposure to this seaside life, so I decide to stay for a week.
Granny spoils us all with her warm hospitality, comfortable beds and copious good home-cooked food. The night is balmy and full of the shrill, yet soothing cries of seagulls. Harry, my husband, can only stay for the weekend as he has to work. The next day we say goodbye. He kisses me and I cry. It’s unexpected. We’re not used to being apart, we take one another for granted when we see each other every day and suddenly a week seems like a long time. I’ll miss him.
The prospect of three females in the house, the dynamic of three generations of females, is suddenly daunting! A week with my mother is bound to make me regress to the moody teen that only she can resurrect. A week with my daughter in holiday mode; – will her boundless energy rob me of my own by the end of the week? Will my husband resent me for any bad habits or changes to her routine (or indeed her personality), that may result from seven days of pampering by granny?
What seemed like a lovely idea suddenly seems so wrong. I can’t stop crying. Harry looks bewildered, helpless and concerned. Granny is playing with Bea and doesn’t see my tears, or is perhaps pretending not to see. Harry leaves for London. I am bemused by my reaction.
We eat and go for a cliff-top walk. Bea is energetic and stubbornly tries to push her own stroller all the way home. Our pace is frustratingly slow. Granny is kind and entertaining. As the day goes on her energy is waning. Harry calls later to say he arrived home safely. I apologise for being silly and restrain myself from crying again. We say we will talk every day.
It’s night-time, and I am lying in bed listening to my daughter breathing heavily beside me and the sound of the seagulls wailing outside. The week looms large ahead of us like a big empty space. I see it in my mind’s eye as a vast expanse of sand and I drift into sleep.
Bea has slept well and we all wake refreshed. While granny dresses, Bea is wailing for her. Then granny works her magic, encouraging Bea to eat breakfast after my failed attempts. Bea sings and dances and charms us both. While I shower I hear granny and Bea talking, enchanting each other. I ponder on how peaceful it is here. What used to seem like oppressive solitude in my teenage years now seems like a secret haven of calm. Where my teenage self felt only boredom, my thirty-five year old self tunes into the quiet magic of this place.