Due to the usual commitments of work and school
and because they live in London, we don’t get to see my partner’s daughter, son-in-law and grandson, Noah, as much as we all would like. We finally arranged their first visit to us since we moved to Yorkshire and we were really looking forward to it. When my youngest son, Julius, who is one of Noah’s favourite people, decided to come home from uni for the weekend too, everything fell into place.
Illustration – Quentin Blake
“Come and give Moo-Moo a big wet kiss!”
As soon as I see Noah I want to squeal with delight, scoop him up and give him a kiss, but that would totally freak him out (as it would most people). I know I need to give him space so he can remind himself of who we are, and shed his shy-cloak.
Although half a year is nothing for a grown up, it’s an age for a four year old. In the months since we last saw him he’s grown several inches, started school (It’s not school Moo Moo, it’s reception!), and experienced a whole heap of stuff way more interesting than visiting two people you only vaguely remember in a house you don’t know.
With this on my mind, and because all Grandmas (and Moo-Moos) love to spoil their little ones, I’d been wondering what I could get to help him feel at home. I researched all sorts of toys (but I’m not sure what he’s already got), and books (but I always end up buying him books), and clothes (but they’re a bit boring for a boisterous wee boy) and then I had an
Because everyone loves a bicycle
I took myself off to Halfords, had a long chat with the charming sales assistant and settled on an emerald green dinosaur bike with stabilisers and matching helmet. We parked it in the hall so he would see it as soon as he walked through the front door. We couldn’t wait to see his little face.
We met our guests from the station on Saturday morning and, although Noah was a little bashful, he did allow Grandpa to hold his hand while we walked to the car. When we opened the front door of the house Noah ran straight past the bike and shouted, “Where’s Julius?” I should have known that the memory of play-fights with a tall, burly, nineteen year old is much more exciting than an inanimate object, even if it does have wheels.
Julius wasn’t due to arrive until the evening so after lunch we managed, with a bit of cajoling, to persuade Noah to try out his new bike. It was, in the end, a resounding success! (Phew!)
We picked huge rosy apples from the hedgerow down our lane and fed them to these beauties. Noah didn’t quite dare get near enough himself, but he was mesmerised – eyes big brown buttons – as Grandpa held out his palm. The nostrils snorted clouds of grassy steam. The soft downy lips grappled with the apples. The big tombstone teeth bit down hard and crunched them in two.
After all that excitement we curled up on the sofa and read our two favourite books. They are by the fabulous children’s author and illustrator – John Burningham. I used to read them to my own three boys and Noah’s favourite teenager is, in fact, named after the crazy child in one of these books. I thoroughly recommend both these titles, and indeed anything by John Burningham. ‘Courtney’ always used to make me cry, something which I tried, but failed, to hide. As I would blow my nose and wipe away a sly tear all three of my callous children would nudge each other and titter. If you want sympathy don’t have sons.
I was over the moon when Noah asked to come with me, in the car, on his own, to collect Julius from York. We chatted away in the dark about bestest friends – Leon and Isla, and bestest lunches – fish fingers and beans, until – mid sentence – he fell fast asleep. He didn’t wake up again until we pulled up at the house, but his face did break into a beaming smile when he realised who was helping him out of the car.
Thanks to a fully-recharged-wide-eyed-and-raring-to-go-Noah, Julius saw his first Sunday morning in years.
After a hearty breakfast, we all went for another bike ride. And then we made a pie for our lunch. When my boys were small they loved to help me decorate the crust with pastry shapes and Julius showed Noah how to roll out the pastry scraps and cut out shapes. They made cats and cars and stick men and smiley faces and at one point an enormous rather too anatomically correct willy which Noah found totally hilarious and I obstinately refused to use. In the end they plumped for a personalised Autumnal theme. (Julius– “so boring…” Moo-Moo– “so pretty…”) And it tasted pretty damn good too.
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head off for the station. Grandpa and I each got a kiss, but Julius got a full-on-bear-hug.
The joy of a weekend filled with simple pleasures.
I can’t wait to do it all again.