As the sun-starved trees burst into bloom and the woodland creatures start kicking up their heels, batting their twitterpated eyes and getting frisky, in the background one can hear the unmistakable tickings of a biological clock.
But it isn't mine. Oh, nosiree…it is my mother’s.
You’d think by now I’d have built up immunity to her “I don’t wanna be an old grandma” advances. My future husband and I hadn’t even set the date for our wedding when my mother began stockpiling Goodwill “treasures” for her long-limbed, curly-headed grandbabies.
(For that’s how she imagines them, but she said she wouldn’t mind if some came out with short legs and stick-straight hair like mine--gee thanks, Mom--or if they’d even be bald-headed, she’d love them all just the same.)
I was christened Mrs. Petersheim for three months when my mother bestowed upon me a ring box that held not jewelry as I’d eagerly anticipated, but a pink pacifier tied with curly string.
For our second married Christmas it was a silver baby spoon. This Christmas I’m pretty sure it is going to be a weekend at Gatlinburg where our cabin will be replete with mood lighting, Barry White in surround sound, and a heart-shaped tub.
Three days ago everything crowned to a head when my mother and 13-year-old brother came to see the progress Father’s been making on their Dawdi Haus at the end of our lane. (By the way, “Dawdi Haus” means “grandparent's house” in Pennsylvania Dutch--oh, how apt!)
With its high peaks, port-hole windows, and jutted nooks, their cottage is absolutely adorable in an overgrown-dollhouse kind of way, which is exactly what my mother had in mind. You see, just like that big white house was built for what’s-her-name in The Notebook, this house is being constructed for grandbabies. Oodles and oodles of them. You’d think I had a pedigree right up there with Lassie or something.
My poor father had to move every window in the house so the grandbabies wouldn’t push through the screens and plunge to an untimely Humpty Dumpty. One of the jutted nooks is being designed with a mini table and chairs so the grandbabies can clamber up and swing their chubby legs while hand-over-fisting G’maw’s breakfast. (Breakfast! What in the world, they’re going to be my children, too!)
In the vaulted den a ginormous chest will be masked as a window seat so all the wee ones' toys can be stored and so Grandmutter can lure them down to her Dawdi Haus with not only promises of fried foods and processed sugars, but also a “new” Goodwill treasure buried in the toy chest! A set of dropdown stairs is also going to descend from the attic so the grandbabies (once they’re old enough, of course) can scale up them, peek out the port-hole window, and play like they’re captains of a ship, all the Dawdi Haus their stage and an adoring grandmutter their audience.
Seriously. How am I ever to compete with that?
My 13-year-old brother seems to be asking himself the same thing.
While our parents sorted out more window safety issues, he and I went for a walk. I made some joke about how our mother can’t wait to get her hands on a grandbaby.
My brother didn’t laugh.
I paused, glanced over. “Are you going to like being an uncle?”
“Why should I?” he grumbled.
“’Cause they’d be your nieces and nephews?”
Shrugging, he kicked at a pile of stones with his barefeet.
“Well, it’s gonna be a while anyway,” I soothed. “You’ll probably be in college or something by then.”
My brother pierced me with blue eyes and said, “Yeah, right.”
I gulped, wondering if he -- like that one kind of dog -- could sense something I couldn’t.
When we came back to the property, my mother-in-law, sister-in-laws, and six-month-old nephew had come to check out my parents’ place, too. My brother and I mounted the upside down bucket serving as a step and went inside. The six-month-old, who’d been fighting a severe respiratory infection throughout his week-long visit, was getting fussier by the second.
“Lemme see him,” my mother said, going over and scooping the baby out of his carseat. I don’t know how she did it -- for I’ve tried since and something about my anatomy won’t let me master the hold -- but she pressed that wee one so close to her chest that he just nestled down as if he’d grown there. His little legs stopped pedaling and curled up beneath him; my mother patted his diapered bottom and whispered nonsense into his hair.
“Uh-oh…somebody needs a gran-babe-y,” my mother-in-law crooned.
My mother nodded; her smile bookended with dimples. “Yes, ma’am! That’s what I’ve been saying for a lonnnng time now!”
Then my mother and mother-in-law looked at me and cocked their heads. I looked over at my younger brother for help, but he just folded his arms and grinned.
At that moment I considered getting my mother a Cabbage Patch Kid like she’d done when my older brother kept begging for a sister.
But the thing is, that Cabbage Patch Kid idea obviously didn’t work...well, 'cause here I am.