Oh, sure — I can keep a secret. I can hammer my mouth shut for hours, days, weeks, or years, if necessary. I’m tough!
But, you know, some secrets are easier to keep than others.
“I’m pregnant!” our daughter announced at Christmas dinner.
She might as well have lit a pipe bomb. Forget dignity; her father and I went into a loud and deep emotional swoon.
We’re going to be grandparents before we’re complete geriatric cases!
We can stop hinting about grandkids!
We can tell all our fr —
“Of course, you can’t tell anyone till my second trimester,” our daughter said. “We want to announce it first,” she added, nodding at her husband, Bennett. (If I ever saw a guy bursting with paternal enthusiasm, it’s Bennett. According to our daughter, he’s already itching to buy some kind of special microphone so he can read to the kid in utero.)
But the second trimester! That was weeks and weeks away. I got woozy just thinking about the people I couldn’t tell — my sister, Betsy, Donna, my neighbors, my yoga class, my pilates class, my hairdresser Snodene, passers-by, my dentist, total strangers. I might as well give up my whole social world and become a mime.
I looked at my daughter and son-in-law, who seemed to be very firm about this whole early pregnancy omerta business. Oh, brother. For some reason, they also appeared to view me as being the leakiest vessel at the table. Like my husband and son didn’t go around spilling the beans on all kinds of things practically all the time.
Typical. Women always get the blame. I guess my daughter and Bennett had forgotten how heroically I’d kept the secret when Bennett was about to propose and I’d hardly told anyone for days.
“So — what do you all want to be called?” our daughter asked us.
Our first decision as almost grandparents! My husband looked blank. He said he didn’t know. He’d have to think about it.
“What about you, Mom?” our daughter asked.
“I want to be Coco,” I said.
Well, for some reason, this set off a firestorm of amazement at the table. Coco? Really? Why Coco?
“You sound like you’ve been thinking about this a long time,” my husband said.
“Of course I’ve been thinking about it a long time,” I snapped. “This is about my identity as a grandmother.”
It occurred to me they’d all expected me to pick out some appropriately dowdy, self-sacrificing moniker for this very important transition in my life. Well, forget that. For once in my life, I was going for the zip, the glamour, the glitz.
Prepare yourself, baby. You and Coco have a rendezvous in only a few months.
P.S. Thirty-three years ago, the sonograms of our daughter in utero looked like a Rorschach test for potential felons. My husband and I pretended we could recognize the head, but it looked indistinguishable from the bottom — white blurs against a black background.
These days, the tiniest fetus is ready for Instagram. Our grandchild’s first photo traveled thousands of miles to find us in Finnish Lapland. You could see the head perfectly, along with another long, straight body part that I thought was a leg, but my husband felt sure was a penis.
That stark white image against a black background — the first evidence my own dear child is having a child of her own — moved me in a way I could never really explain. I stared at it as I sat near a fire in a distant land of snow and ice and darkness. He or she looked like a perfect little snowflake, someone I would have recognized anywhere.
(Copyright 2015 by Ruth Pennebaker)