A friend’s granddaughter is soon to deliver the family’s first great grandchild: a baby boy. I remember when Tanya, the soon-to-be mom, was born. The memories drive home how old I am, while at the same time adding color and texture to life. I remember Tanya waddling around the house chasing grandma’s cat; and exploring the delights of the family pool a few years later.
From the get-go Tanya was a giggly, outgoing kid. An only child, she loved hanging out with adults – and was she ever the center of attention! She is – and always has been- a charming knockout, so it seemed natural for people to focus on her. My friend Lillian and her husband doted on her, and over the years Tanya spent innumerable overnights at their house. In the morning Papi made pancakes.
Watching Tanya grow up, I expected her to become a belle of the ball, collecting friends and boyfriends, partying, working only to earn enough to buy make-up and the latest fashions. But, hardly out of high school, she surprised everyone by looking for and finding the love of her life. A couple of years later she and her boyfriend announced she was pregnant. They both glowed. Who knew that Tanya’s most fervent wish was to have a family?
Tanya’s pregnancy has brought me new perspective. Of course the birth of the next generation always does that, but I’m nevertheless surprised at the changes in my outlook. Tanya and her boyfriend live with grandma, as Papi has passed away and grandma welcomes the company. I visit Lillian at least a couple of times a week. She has a debilitating respiratory disease and I like checking in on her even though she’s not alone.
Spending time in a household that includes an expectant teenage couple has catapaulted me into the millenium in a whole new way. I realize lots of kids have kids without getting married and that seems to work out pretty much the way families have always done: Tanya and her boyfriend either will or won’t stay together and Tanya will live with her baby’s father, or become a single mother, or live with someone who isn’t her baby’s father.
I realize that today’s kids like bright, garish colors and see huge flat-screened tv’s as necessary furnishings. Regardless of financial standing, kids’ clothes are like so many disposibles. Cooking is something one does in the microwave if at all (take-out is best.) Housework is optional, though personal cleanliness and “in” apparel are not. Reading is something you do on a kindle or not at all, and phones and email are obsolete since the advent of texting. Money is what you scrounge around for when you need something. Cars function as housing for booming base rhythms, and gas is always in short supply (at today’s prices…)
Tanya and Ben give every indication of becoming responsible parents. They’ve nested beautifully in Lillian’s basement rooms. The crib is ready in the baby’s area of their bedroom. Other baby equipment crowds their space. They’ve completed child birth and child care classes, and Tanya hasn’t drunk any alcohol since she became pregnant. Ben works long hours then comes home to help with fixing up their living area. I have no idea how things will play out over the years (does anyone?) but right now Tanya and Ben have my admiration for the care and planning they show.
I’m not starry eyed about this baby. I see friction with grandma over bills and babysitting and housekeeping. I see sulking and bursting out the front door. I see tears and pouts and silent fury. I see Lillian getting fed up with the baby’s crying and wondering if it was a good idea to let Tanya and Ben move in. I see Ben wondering what he’s gotten himself into. But is that so very different from many young families?
So I await baby Jeffrey’s birth with great excitment. Lillian’s house, so lonely after her husband’s death, is filled with sounds of living, and the baby will soon add his. I love visiting Lillian in a whole new way. And I’m grateful to Tanya and Ben for embarking on this journey even if they haven’t a clue in some ways. Do first-time expectant parents ever?