It’s exactly 11 a.m. when I see them out the window. They look bleached in their matching anoraks, careful in the snow. I grab Mister Baby and open the front door before they press the buzzer. Their faces infuse with utter warmth as they spy grandchild number 6. They open and soften as they bend over him in the hallway; their eyes moving forward in their faces.
“Looky what we did, Mom!” I say.
“Yes, he’s beautiful, really beautiful,” Big Ruthie marvels, shaking her head.
“Wow, looky that; it’s Mister Baby,” says Dad.
We sit down in the living room and start passing around coffee and the baby. My mother is tucked into the corner of the sofa and her shoulders slope around Mister Baby’s small form, his froggy legs kick complacently. He is long and thin, his limbs still hold their fetal form; he stares up at her, never blinking.
“Do you want to hold him, Dad?” I ask.
“Okay,” he says stretching out his arms. “He sure is cute,” he says, grinning down at Mister Baby, comfortable in the crook of his arm. And I’m glad for my father because traditionally he‘s held the grandbabies last and by that time, they had enough and would invariably bawl their heads off the instant he touched them. I take Mister Baby away after a few minutes; he looks like he might start missing me in a loud sort of way.
“Anyone mind if I feed him?” I ask. “Go ahead,” my mother shrugs and gestures ‘knock yourself out,’ with her arms. I strap on the breast pillow. “It’s saved my shoulders,” I say by way of excuse for the ugly, faux-denim foam donut. “Whatever works,” laughs my mother.
Big Ruthie hands me a bag of ‘goodies’ before we head out to lunch. I look in and take out a box of cheddar crackers. “Those were only opened a couple of days ago,” she says. The Pater straps on the Baby Bjorn and Dexter. My heart surges with the sunshine and my free arms as we leave the house. “I might run away,” I grin at Big Ruthie.
They like the food at the Waterfront but they’re not used to waiting so long for it to arrive; they’re also nervous lest Mister Baby wake up. Funny, it does seem to take longer when you don’t have a glass of wine and a cigarette to wile away the time. We pick up dessert on the way home and they’re gone by three, they want to beat the traffic back to their motel in Queens.
The visit feels just long enough and I settle back down with the pillow and Mister Baby and my boobs. For the first two months if people want to visit, they should do it at your schedule: come in for 15 minutes every two hours or alternatively, take the baby away for an hour and a half, bring him in to be fed and then take him away again and keep doing this for about 24 hours. Sounds annoying and fatiguing? Welcome to my world.
My parents spend the following day with my aunt and uncle on Long Island where they too live in an assisted living facility. My uncle alternates days of dementia and dialysis, but it is a good day so they visit my grandparents’ graves.
“We have a great view of Shea Stadium from our motel,” my father tells me when they arrive in the morning and shows me “Shea at Sunset” on the digital camera.
The food is even better at the seafood place on Atlantic Avenue but the wait’s even longer. It doesn’t matter though, Mister Baby has once again burrowed into The Pater’s chest and doesn’t look like he’s budging any time soon. After lunch, we get brownies and then they go. I want these days to go on forever but that’s it, they’re off back to North Carolina. “This might be our last trip to New York, the traffic’s unbelievable,” my father says. “Terrible,” my mother adds, “and so rude.”
After they leave, I look through the bag my mother gave me and find fortune cookies, some biscuits from their Chapel Hill dining hall, some packs of grissini also from the dining hall, the open cheddar crackers, some lemon shortbread (also open), some fruit and a package of McDonald’s fries with 9 fries left. The cardboard has been carefully folded over a few times so that the fries don’t fall out.