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"Your granddaughter's stopped talking about you." A letter to my mum across the border.

Dear Mum,

She is getting so big now, you won’t believe it when you see her. The clothes she wore when you were here in March are packed away, and so are the next size after that.

She’s worn through two sizes of shoes, and that big clever brain is growing too (mental note: must buy her a new hat).

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The crawling baby you pushed in a pram last visit is now confidently running. She’s trying to climb things and when she feels really brave, attempting little jumps too. She spends a great deal of time slinging a bag over her shoulder, broadcasting “bubye” to her adoring fans and bossily pushing her soft toys in a tiny stroller up and down the hall.

We miss you. Video calls can only do so much. Surely she doesn’t understand why you can’t visit right now... how effectively can you really explain virus-related travel restrictions or border closures to a toddler?

For a long time after you left she woke in the mornings reciting your name. She would look around, adjusting her eyes and say, "Gaga, gaga". 

"Gaga loves you, bubba," I would reply. "But people are sick. Gaga will come when she can."

Then she would nod her head emphatically and reach for a book.

How long is toddler memory? I don’t know if I should say this, but she’s stopped talking about you. She’s talking about dogs and bananas and sandpits, but not about Gaga.

They say that the Romanian orphanages grew silent because the children had given up getting their needs met. Has she given up on a reunion? Has she forgotten what Gaga-cuddles feel like?

I tried to tell you this on the phone the other day but the lump came in my throat and my eyes welled. She looked up at me curiously with widened eyes that said silently, "Oh Mama, are you sad? Don’t worry, I’m here with you."

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All I wanted to do was to share that look with you too, Mum, but you’re not here. It made my chest and arms ache and I swept her close to me, holding her head against my heartbeat. But my waist ached too, where your arms should have been wrapping around us both, and little salty tears dropped onto her perfect hair.

We’ve done some digging in the garden but it’s mostly weeds where the spring veggies should be growing, checked frequently by your green thumb. I’m sure you’d tell me that the plants weren’t properly pruned either, but I tried. We draw animals on the concrete out the back and make the applicable noises, but my orange lions and blue cats (the ones we used to draw at preschool) must not be that exciting because she keeps chewing on the chalk.

We’ve read your favourite rhyming books and tried baking using your recipes but they’re never quite the same. "Tried and true", your notes say in my recipe book, but something just isn’t right. Perhaps it is your touch in the mixing, or your knowing eye on the fickle oven, rather than a secret ingredient.

As I write this she looks at me with discontent, the same expression I am giving to the camera in my baby album when you wouldn’t give me that chocolate biscuit. I see myself reflected in her, and wonder if you would too.

"Get off that computer and play with me" the tone of her cry implies, so I’ll wrap it up here. 

She’s trying her best to squash green playdough into my jeans. Mum, I’m so tired of playdough. I wish you were here to tag in.

That’s all for now.

I hope you will come when you can.

Love from us xoxo

Anna Cusack is passionate about preparing parents for the realities of life with a new baby, and supporting families to experience calm and contentment amid the chaos of the newborn period. Her areas of interest include village building, breastfeeding, building emotional resilience and physical strength post-birth, and empowered mothering practices through babyhood and beyond. She is a Mother, Postpartum Doula and Accredited Exercise Physiologist based in the Lake Macquarie region of NSW. 

Feature image: Supplied.

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