All day Sunday and no news.
Everyone who visits the shop today must stand and listen to my news; that there is no news. One couple went up Jeff’s Books and told Caitlin that there is no real news. Nevertheless, Caitlin offers to help me out when there is news. But still there is no news.
More visitors came in after lunch and asked me for this book and that book but I didn’t help them. I just told them my lack of news. One old lady forgot about the books she wanted and weighed in with enthusiasm. She applied consolation, saying that babies come when they want and never before.
Finn William Hood came in at 8.01 pm on Sunday night just when he wanted to, small as a dot and caught by his parents and swooped into a family of three, now four.
I visited and held the smallness and the folded up boneless limbs and the soft womb position they still assume. He drinks with eyes open and eyes shut, eyes flickering with living and milk and noise falling everywhere, Noah, still a baby and now a brother, leaning over and tapping gently the forehead and their infant eyes meeting for a fleeting, inerasable portion of one second, and then Finn asleep again.
Photography by Elsa Hood
Noah’s face has a lot of work to do.
It stretches in outrage and subsides in sleep. It must move to find milk constantly and must house the breath taken second after second after second and onward for always.
He contorts and folds, stretches and bleats and allows his eyes to open and examine the nearest shapes and colours in astonishment and anger. Where is the milk?
The young parents are busy exchanging the intense talk of young people. They all stare down and talk about his eyes and his toes and the lost sock. Noah’s eyes are nearly black and they are very liquid. He closes them in exhaustion and retreats to deep sleep and dreaming of tiny babies which is then often mapped out on his face. Noah’s face has a lot of work to do.
Today we are going to the river in Strathalbyn for your baby shower. I have bought you a swaddling cloth and a brush from Argus House and also two books so we can begin the reading as soon as possible. It is warm and cloudy and I am at the shop waiting for the last customers to leave so I can bring your gift down to the river. The Aunties are making cheese platters. Your baby cousin, Max, will be reclining at ease, either full of milk or asking for more as these are his two most passionate interests. We are all wondering when you might be born.
Today your young father dropped in to our house in Kanmantoo and took his boots off inside and left there a pile of sand on the carpet. One day you will do that in their house and I will laugh and laugh.
Soon you will be born. Yesterday I came out of the door of my bookshop and there was your mother standing on the kerb and assessing the traffic. There was too much traffic for her to cross safely with you as cargo. So she went further down the street.
And now you are born, last night when we were all unaware and caught off guard and everyone shrieking the news to each other. Another grandson. Another!
On the way to the hospital this morning the youngest Aunt drove much too fast. I said: don’t drive so fast but she was leaning forward urging us all toward the hospital. We did not want you to grow up and leave before we got there. She tells me that giving birth is hard work.
And it is autumn, warmer than warm, leaves swirling and still we are driving. Then we are there and gazing down. You are wrapped up, a dot swaddled, your father exhausted and your mother triumphant.
So now: two grandsons:
Max: awake since 2.30 am and crowing and singing through the rest of the night, emerging into the morning, gleeful and waving from his mother’s drooping shoulder. He can still fit easily on his grandfather’s one arm.
Noah: crumpled and tiny and yawning strongly. You would fit into your grandfather’s one hand.
A young reader visited the shop and asked me not to remind him that school begins again soon.
January is slowing and it is quiet.
After finishing The Historian I have chosen to read Daisy Head Mayzie by Dr Seuss and also Green Eggs and Ham. I read The Big Cheese and Bartholomew Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. David asked me: But what happened to Edith Wharton and I said: bother Edith Wharton, who cares about her!
Some grandparents brought in their granddaughters to use gift vouchers and one of them, aged about nine years, chose the entire Narnia series. I told them about Max and they said I should give him a voucher, a voucher to my own shop and I was speechless to not have thought of it first! I rushed to write one out and the grandmother said she thought The Gingerbread Man was an ideal first choice. The young reader who was not looking forward to school beginning said his first book was The Secret Seven and is friend said: no way man!
I tell my mother that when I read to my grandson, he follows every word even though he is only four weeks old; he is advanced.
She said: well, maybe he is the same as most babies!
But I am doubtful.
I read I Went Walking three times. Then it was into the bath with Max where he floats motionless, heavy lidded with only his extended big toes showing the ecstasy.
I cannot get anything done. A small baby in a bath is just too absorbing and there is no retreat.
I showed Margaret a picture and she said: What a dear little man. She had come in for a book but forgot what it was, we were too busy looking at the picture of the bath. I said: I can hardly run my bookshop anymore and she said: yes, that’s right, it is impossible.