For me, there are few things better than cradling our five-month old grandson Owen in the crook of my arm while he contentedly sucks on a warmed bottle of milk, eyes closing. I’m afraid I have gone over the grandparent cliff, and I’m loving it. I have to admit I’m close to being an embarrassment how proud I am of Owen. Watch out. Get within ten feet of me and I’ll whip out my phone and show you the latest pictures of our grandson. But I digress. Let me start at the beginning with a question, which is, as Sister Maria von Delco has told us, a very good place to spark.
When do young families begin to have Christmas at their homes, not at the homes of their parents? What’s an appropriate age for such families to establish their own holiday traditions? When do they create memories of their own children who are unable to sleep and want to see what’s under the tree before dawn? Thankfully for us, it isn’t this year. Molly and Tip have come north to spend the Christmas holidays with Owen’s grandparents in York and in Rye, NH. Owen is but five months young, so coming over the river (Piscataqua) and through the woods (all up and down Chases Pond Road) makes a lot of sense this year.
Driven north from Virginia to New England by his parents, Owen has been the focus of their life since his birth in July. Though he doesn’t walk, doesn’t quite crawl, though he pushes the blanket on the floor with his legs, he is the center of attention wherever he goes. Whenever Hannah and I are with him, we want to be at the front of the line to hold him, sway with him, and listen to him “talk” to us.
Three weeks ago, when we were Skyping with Molly, Tip, and Owen, Molly said with that pleading look that all new mothers and fathers know, You can return all the presents you bought us for Christmas because what we really would like is for you to take Owen overnight so we can sleep. Remembering how Hannah and I were rescued when my own Mom and Dad took our kids so we had some time on our own, we jump at the chance to spend the night with our grandson. I’ve told friends that retirement would be even better if one day a week I took care of Owen from morning til night. Now, on Christmas night I can start putting my money where my mouth is. By the way, we didn’t return a single present.
On Christmas Eve, Molly, Tip, and Owen came to York for the First Parish Church Family Mitten Tree Service. Arriving thirty minutes ahead of time at the sanctuary, we barely found seats together at this service designed for families. Called the “Mitten Service,” it is where the offering is mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for families far less fortunate than ours. Owen rocked throughout the service and never cried. His mom always has a bottle of pumped breast milk ready at a moment’s notice.
The Virginia Family Rawding returned to Rye for the night; they would begin their Christmas Day early with the extended Rawding Family which makes sense since there are two boys under the age of seven. Arriving in York at 11A for the Rothermel Family Christmas, we (including our daughter Robyn and son Will) begin with stockings and conclude with the generosity the Rothermel kids are known for.
At the end of the day, this Christmas evening is to be our night with Owen while his parents are in Rye. The timing can’t be better for, you see, our young master Owen woke repeatedly last night. It appears Owen couldn’t wait for Santa Claus and awoke at 1030P, 11P, 1145P, and pretty much every hour til dawn. We think, even if he is up all night, that we, as retired (Dan) and semi-retired (Hannah) can nap any time we want the next day and go to bed at 7P tomorrow. This truly is not a sacrifice, however he sleeps.
Placing the playpen to the side of our dining room table just twenty feet from our bedroom. We have our fingers crossed that he will sleep through the night. Ten days ago he slept for eleven and a half hours, which must be a state of Virginia record. Molly has left pumped breast milk and with added formula to his bottle, we are set for Owen. Bring it on O Man!
With Hannah handling diaper detail, I feed him his bottle of two ounces of breast milk and two of formula. Life is good as I hold my chunk of a grandson (17 pounds now) as he rhythmically sucks on his bottle while his eyelids get heavier and heavier. Asleep, Owen lies on my chest with his head on the diaper/burp cloth on my shoulder. Placing him in the baby reclining seat in the playpen, I can’t help taking in this beautiful child. (Owen has had a cold for two months and the angle of the seat allows him to breathe easier and sleep better, we are told.) It’s eight-thirty and the young lad is already sawing logs, calling it a night Irene, hitting the sack, and getting some serious shut eye. Now we wait in bed. No matter how he sleeps, Hannah and I are ready for anything, we think. Owen may be up in a matter of hours.
Not knowing what time it is, I awake in the middle of the night, tiptoe from the bedroom past his crib into the room with the darkened Christmas tree, and see 1238 AM on the microwave clock. Sweet. He’s four hours into a beautiful sleep. Tiptoeing back to bed, I thank the gods of slumber and nestle in our to bed. And then again I awake, and it’s 450A; I think, is he okay? I check and he is. It’s 640 AM before he stirs and calls out, not a cry, but a wakeup call that begins his day and ours.
Ten hours! He did it! Owen, Owen, Owen. That’s our grandson! Taking him to our bed and laying him on his back, I listen to Owen for twenty-five minutes do his happy baby talk. Molly will arrive within the hour and life is good. We text Molly and Tip the good news and know Owen has given us all a special Christmas present.
Molly arrives, pleased, and tells us that Paula, his grandmother Rawding, has offered to take Owen the Thursday night before they leave on Friday morning to go back to Virginia; she asks, could you take him again tonight (Wednesday)? We know the peace and quiet it will bring Molly and Tip. We know Owen will be in Virginia in a matter of days for all of January and February. Yes, we’ll take him. And we’ll see if we and he can work our magic for one more night. (Read below this picture to learn how Owen did on his own with Dan and Hannah for their second night together.)
Nine hours of sleeping without a peep! And only nine because we woke him to get him to Molly in Rye by 7 AM. There’s nothing better than our grandson!