Saturday 14 November 2020

Consolations of a Goddaughter

It has been a long week of trying to determine what is true and who is credible. What made it worse was the subject matter: contested elections, society-wrecking quarantine measures, a former cardinal, a credulous saint, his former secretary. 
Fortunately there was consolation: a photograph appeared on my phone of a pretty young lady in Warsaw for the Independence Day March. In the background white-helmeted policemen line a brick wall. In the foreground two intense dark eyes peer over a blanket in a pram. They belong to my Polish goddaughter, whom I will now dub Córeczka  (tsoo-retch-ka), little daughter, because Chrześnica (goddaughter) is harder to say. Hh+ zhe+sh+nee+tsa: what a language. 

Córeczka, who is not even a year old, looks as if she has a machine gun under the blanket, ready for action  against communist oppression: a baby insurgent. In reality I know she must be swaddled up in layer after layer of cloth because Polish mothers, no matter how young, are terrified of their babies catching cold. My Italo-Canadian goddaughter, Figlioccia, lives in Toronto's old Polish neighbourhood, and her mother is approached on the street by elderly Poles aghast at her brothers' victories over clothes. You can guess how much she appreciates that. If I remember correctly, Córeczka's mother once asked me, very concerned, about the relatively naked children she saw in Scotland. 

Do Polish children never fight against pullovers and coats, I wonder. Perhaps their parents pounce on them and wrap them up so quickly and with such brute force they never have a chance. At any rate, the Polish obsession with well-wrapped babies is a byword to the nations. Even if Córeczka had a machine gun under her blankets, she wouldn't be able to reach it.  

Polish Pretend Son informed me that Córeczka is likely to start walking soon, and my heart ached, as I had  not yet seen her successfully crawl. This summer she gave it a shot, trying to drag her tummy along, but failed and cried. I love the crawling stage--it is adorable--and in a panic I looked up flights to Poland. There were no flights to the nearest city, and only one in the month of November to the next nearest. No return flight until mid-December. Fast, cheap and easy travel to Córeczka is all but impossible. 

So PPS kindly sent me a video of Córeczka crawling. It began with Córeczka, who currently has short reddish-blonde hair, so looks bald, patting the family dog. The dog, who is enormous, puts up with Córeczka for only so long before escaping. Then Córeczka begins to crawl around, still with her tummy firmly on the floor, looking more like she is swimming, frog-style, on the tiles. She is really fast.  

Seeing Córeczka swimming along the floor after a guard dog is literally the best thing that happened to me all week. A second video followed, and although Córeczka's next move--pulling herself up to reach and maltreat a channel changer--was perhaps more impressive, it lacked the utter adorableness of the froggy factor. 

I'm glad I watched the first video several times because after a few hours both disappeared from my phone. I was disappointed at first, but then I recalled that this was much more a life-like experience. For thousands of years, seeing any individual baby crawl was a very transitory experience. 

Another consolation of the week: no impulse purchase, Beata Zatorska's Rose Petal Jam has finally arrived. When I first leafed through it in a book shop, years ago, my eyes welled up from Zatorska's descriptions of her grandmother. "Nobody cries like the Poles," says a character in Raymond Raszkowski Ross's "Wojtek the Bear," and it's apparently contagious. Rose Petal Jam is the first cookbook to make me cry with nostalgia instead of frustration. I opened it this morning, and my eyes welled up again. Now I am longing to buy a farmhouse near the Czech border and cultivate a massive garden of vegetable, going out into June fields to gather rose petals.  

Of course, I also miss my own maternal grandmother, who couldn't cook. I did not know my paternal grandmother as well because until the end she lived far away, a thought that freezes my expatriate aunt soul. My nephew Pirate once told me that when I went away after a visit, it was if I no longer existed. He didn't say it to be cruel: he was just stating an interesting--well, not fact, but experience. Who has time, when one is eight, to ponder absent aunts? 

Which is why, quarantine or no quarantine, pandemic or plandemic, I am going to Poland in January, and Canada soon after. 

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