I did not know, my sweetness, what it would feel like to be a grandmother. I tried to imagine it, and I wasn’t able to, not the whole time that you were on your way. I knew I would love you, that was certain – but the rest of it was a secret I’m only just now figuring out. My own mother has turned out to be such a wonderful grandmother, that I felt a lot of pressure, so I hope I do okay. It has started like this – you are so beautiful that I have shown your picture to every person I have encountered in the last 10 days. (The lady at the wine store agrees that you are perfect, and the guy who does our taxes (your Poppy Joe sent that one) agrees. Several taxi drivers have concurred, and I like to think that the lady at the grocery store can’t wait for an update.) I have not been so besotted of a human since your Mum and Aunties were in my arms. I cannot get enough of you, your tiny fingernails are miraculous, your little mouth, so like your mother’s, I could look at it all day. In this way, my Elliot, becoming a grandmother was like becoming a mother. You are like sunshine, I can watch you for hours, and holding your small body in my arms almost hurts, it is so divine.
It’s different than being a mother though, because I am not afraid. I don’t worry you’ll stop breathing, I am unconcerned by your snuffles and sneezes, I am not anxious about hypothermia if your hands feel cool, and I don’t fear for your future when you sleep through a feeding. I felt that fear for your mum, and it was all used up on her. I’ve seen how it goes now, and I know you’re not as tenuously here as it seems. When your mum asks me if you’re okay, it’s with an easy heart that I can reply that your are not just okay, you’re perfect. You changed that – promoting me from fretting, over-concerned mother, to confident, unworried grandmother, and it’s a change I’m enjoying. it is no longer my responsibility to make what feel like crushing, all important decisions about life and death matters, like whether or not you should have socks on. That is for your mum and dad, and the part of me that remembers the feeling enjoys watching them fuss over you. (The present debate centres around your fingernails. Do they need cutting? Are they too long? What if you scratch yourself? How should they cut them if they are too long? They are beautifully finding their feet as parents, and seeing them take on the role and the responsibility so well is almost as compelling and satisfying as your eyebrows.)
You’ve rippled through our whole little family, reminding me that babies are huge that way. Though you’re tiny, you’ve had an impact on all of our lives. Our whole dynamic has changed and we’re all looking forward, and dreaming, and imagining who you’re going to be, and what you’ll be like. So far, you’re easygoing, thoughtful, and worried – a lot like (me) and your Great Uncle Tupper, who’s name you bear. I’ve been thinking a lot about him this week, and I thought a lot about my own grandparents too, as I did with your mother and aunties, wishing that they were here, wishing they could see you. I was blessed Elliot, with the most wonderful grandparents in the world, and though I only had them until I was in my teens, they remain two of the most powerful people of my life. It was this that was in my mind when I started your blanket. The centre panel is Lily-of-the-Valley. It was an easy choice – for it reminds me of my own grandmother. It was a favourite of hers, and at her house a long bed of it bloomed every spring, and smelled like heaven. Your mother is named for my grandmother, and you’re the child who makes me a grandmother, and so Lilly-of-the-Valley it was.
Surrounding that centre is a wee border of ring lace. Tiny, perfect circles, meant as a symbol of the whole family that surrounds you. We are a small family, but we are tight, and we know how to operate as a team. it’s been said that we’re a hard family to break into – but you, little boy, are in, and the force of the wee and fierce McPhee army stands round you.
That motif gives way to a pattern of dog paws, meant to acknowledge your dog Penny. (She’s the border collie who keeps trying to lick your face, and comes over every time you fuss to make sure that someone is taking care of her people-puppy.) I am not a dog person, but Penny is a very good dog, and I suspect she’s going to be your first and fiercest friend.
The largest border on your blanket is your heritage – where you come from, in the context of the great big world. Your mother is Canadian, so snowflakes for her – and your father is Nicaraguan, so the little flowers are Nicaragua’s national flower, the sacuanjoche. (It is hard to knit one, but I think it’s close. Maybe when I teach you to knit you’ll come up with something better.)
Finally, the edging I choose for you is an old one – unlike the dog paws, snowflakes or the flowers, I didn’t have to make it up. It’s a variation of Print O’ the Wave, and besides being beautiful, it’s a symbol of much. The water we all love to be near and in, and the water you were born from and into, the wave of love that carried you here, and it isn’t lost on me that it looks a lot like the climbing plant in your living room that your parents both love.
All together, your blanket is just over 2 and a half kilometres of silk and wool, soft and strong, like I hope you and life will be. It is a great thing to be resilient, and gentle. It took me months to make it, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever made. I shudder to think how many stitches are in it, but know that I didn’t resent a one of them. They all hold my hope and joy, and there is so much of that – I couldn’t have knit a stitch less.
I know that right now, we don’t know each other very well. You’re young, and you’re perfect and you sleep a lot, and so much about you is yet to be revealed. Will you play the piano, like me? The guitar like Joe? Will you be tenderhearted, like Erin and your mum, or dangerously witted, like your Great Grandmother Bonnie or your Great Uncle Tupp? Will you be able to write like your Grammy or my Grampa, will you love crosswords and languages and travelling like Ian? Will you be fierce like your Aunt Amanda? Resilient like Samantha? Are you the child who is finally curly-haired, like me? Will you be tall? What will come from your father and his family? What will be all yours – the things that make you your own self, that we all come to think of as your gifts? We can’t wait to find out, and I am weepy and overwhelmed thinking of a lifetime of learning you.
You will go on to do a great many things, but know that even though you are so little, you have already changed the world. Though I will do my best to stand between you and sadness, you are going to have bad days. It is my fondest wish that on those days, you remember this. You are a wanted, longed for, and deeply loved person, and you are everything we ever hoped would happen. You are my grandson.
Welcome, and I love you.