I’m leaving for London in a week to celebrate the first birthday of my first grandchild, Jonah. On my last visit, I, along withmy son’s girlfriend Janelle, attempted to smuggle Jonah across the border from France onto the Eurostar train that goes through the chunnel, in order to get back into the UK. Unfortunately, the border guards noticed that Janelle had a baby attached to her in a Snuggly. To make matters worse, they also noticed that Jonah had a UK passport (Janelle and I had US passports) and had a different last name than Janelle’s or mine. For those of you who have been contemplating smuggling your grandchildren into the UK, my advice is not to try. But if you dotry, don’t tell the border officials that you know me.
Tonight I will bring my huge suitcase down from the attic and will fill it with items that have nothing to do with me. There will be birthday presents for Jonah, a couple small gifts for Yael, a large birthday bag of clothing for Jonah from Yael’s sister-in-law, items Yael has ordered that she can’t get in the states, and the Fudgie the Whale cake mold (which I almost tried to install in a client’s refrigerator, thinking it was an ice cube bin). More items to bring to them will probably arrive in the mail during the week. My own two weeks worth of clothes will have to fit in my carryon. I’m just grateful that warm weather clothes take up less room than cold weather ones, and sandals are much easier to pack than boots.
I will have two very important tasks in London. The first is that a friend of mine gave me the name of an old boyfriend who lives in London. She has asked me to look up his number, call him, introduce myself and tell him that she says hello. I am to say that she is deliriously happy with her life in DC, has a fabulous marriage, still looks 20 years old, and has won both the Nobel Prize and the Betty Crocker Bakeoff. My friend is hoping that her ex-boyfriend, in turn, has had similar success in life, mostly involving having had no relationships after he stopped seeing her about 40 years ago.
The other task I will have is to figure out how to assemble Jonah’s stroller each day, while my daughter and son-in-law are at work. When I had my children, strollers were really simple affairs that opened almost like an umbrella and weighed about five lbs. My daughter’s stroller weighs about 50 lbs and has about 25 levers and moving parts. It has a wind shield, an umbrella, a hood, a shelf under the seat for packages, individual compartments for coffee and a cell phone and a laptop and a DVD player, a GPS, and a safety wrist strap so that I will be permanently attached to the stroller as I walk.
The stroller can also enclose a small humanoid entirely in a plastic tent-like apparatus that protects the humanoid from foul weather. It accommodates a child from age zero to age 16, when it then turns into a compact car, still with a wrist strap so that the teenager can’t ever lose it. I have seen Yael assemble the stroller, and it scares me. I don’t know how to use my TV remote except for the On, Off, Volume, and Channel buttons, and I have played a DVD only once or twice. Compared to those, the stroller looks like a prefab space shuttle.
My daughter and son-in-law live on a second floor walk up. I have to assemble the stroller downstairs. I think about things like: What do you do with the baby while you are trying to make the stroller look like a stroller? Do you leave him back in the flat? Sit him on the lobby floor? Hold him in one arm while you assemble the stroller in the other? My daughter has no issues with anything. She picks the stroller up, with Jonah in it, and walks up and down entire flights of stairs wearing high heels. I, personally, am still working on the “wearing high heels” part (without carryine anything). So far, I can do that only if I am seated or lying down.
I don’t want to stay in the flat all week, so I have developed a contingency plan. If need be, I will carry Jonah to the nearest market in order to steal a shopping cart to put him into. Then we will walk wherever we want to go. I’m guessing it’s a no-no in the UK to use a shopping cart as one’s personal conveyance, but, since, I don’t plan to take Jonah across international borders, so with any luck, maybe people will look the other way.