And now we approach my least favourite time of year. After weeks of preparation and anticipation, after picking up my brothers from the airport, one of whom travelled with his partner and my parents’ first grandchild, it will soon be time to reverse the operation.
The downstairs bedroom at my parents’ place will be vacated, linen will be stripped and washed and the tree will be taken down and stored, along with the frankly insane amount of Xmas kitch that decorates the living space. In a couple of days, I will travel back to the airports and this time the hugs will be of farewell, not hello.
I popped over to visit today, aware that my nephew will soon be on his way back to Sydney. In the three weeks he had been here, he has grown, which sounds insane until as my brother pointed out, you take into account that his stay here represents one third of his life so far. When I arrived he was out with mum and dad but soon arrived home and was placed on a play mat in the living room.
He is a very jiggly baby, kicking and waving his arms and legs about, while performing a variety of facial expressions: smiling, frowning, raising his eyebrows. As he lies, busy on his mat, it is hard not to imagine a photographer from central casting with his camera giving direction: OK baby, give me happiness – that’s it, big smile, now confusion – wow great frown, babes. OK give me surprise – YEAH let’s see those eyebrows lift. It is quite clear already that he is tracking his mum’s and dad’s faces, and given my mother has been making the most of her grandchild’s visit, is also reacting to hers. This is good news for me, as I look like my mother, so have the advantage of being able to swoop in, with little groundwork and have him ‘recognise’ me. The cunning of the aunt knows no bounds.
He has a collection of three toys, named Laurence, Terence and Merrington, the last of which is a throwback to the name my other brother proposed as his first name before he was born. Merrington has established a bit of a reputation for himself over the holiday, and is usually referred to as, ‘that swine, Merrington’ as he has been connected with a number of incidents over the weeks, including eating the Xmas chocolates and drinking all the Baileys Irish Cream.
My brother had his baby all swaddled up and handed him to me as he needed to pop out shopping. With a swaddled baby comes great responsibity, your job is to basically get them to sleep. Finally his tiny eyes closed and he lay resting in my arms. I held him a while and then lay him gently in his cot, still wrapped up like a burrito, then prepared to leave the house to attend to my own (slightly furrier) charges.
I checked on him a couple of times and although still asleep, he was pretty busy trying to escape the swaddle and kicking his feet about. I thought perhaps I should have put him in his sleeping bag, but did not want to wake him up by moving him. Fifteen minutes later, my brother was due back and I had said goodbye to my mum and dad. I popped my head side the door to check on him one more time.
He was awake; wide awake and had managed to free his arms from the blankets. His blue eyes fixed upon me with interest and then looked away. His cot was on the floor level next to a mirrored wardrobe door and he seemed to find the sight of a semi – swaddled baby very interesting.
I thought perhaps that he might go back to sleep and so popped the dummy, which had fallen from his mouth, back in. He looked at me, sizing me up for a second, then pushed the dummy out of his mouth and smiled. I smiled back, re wrapped him, even worse this time and then put the dummy back in. He spat it out and laughed in my face.
He liked this game. I know this because it went on for a while; dummy, spit, laugh. There was no way this baby was going back to sleep, but until his mum and dad got home he was going to make damn sure he spent some quality time with his aunt, frustrating her every attempt to get him back to dreamland.
That swine, Merrington. I bet it was all his idea.