Savtas Babysit on Zoom!
We are blessed. My wife and I are savtas to the most wonderful human being. He is lovely –bright, big, dark, attentive eyes, edible wide and plump cheeks — ready targets for savta-kissing. His mouth, baby-shaped, small and defined, lips -opening ever so slightly as he listens to our chatter.
We both feel so lucky that his parents, understanding and warm — bless us with Savtas Babysit on Zoom! Pure joy! An hour, a few minutes — we will take anything — any bit of time to see his face, see his movement, hear his voice, his laugh, even his cry. The kilometers fall away when he laughs, and even though my heart aches seeing his tears, I treasure every moment we are together, even on the screen, especially now. Our little one, he loves to communicate — he knows how to listen, he knows how to answer, to ask, to tell. We sing songs together, he shows us Thomas the train, big and little, takes Thomas around the tracks and up the sofa, across the floor — “Where’s your firetruck…?” And he jumps up, running his little paddling run, temporarily leaving the video frame, saying, “I got it. I got it,” as he goes. Coming back lugging his big plastic firetruck, that looks almost as big as he is… He plops it down in front of the screen and shows us the little fire person, Sam, and dog, Coco.
“Here it is.”
Sometimes he draws with us, Momma never too far, as crayons can fall, get lost; paper can get finished or missed. Her patience is something I admire and wonder if I ever came close to her unmistakable grace.
I love our meals together. It must be hard to be stuck inside, without the freedom of the parks, the jungle-gyms; everything contaminated from dread. So, our meals bring me a special pleasure. Every grandparent loves to feed and watch the grandchild eat. So, put him in his chair, set up the iPad and place the food in between us!
“Show me the chicken,” I say. He picks it up.
“In your mouth,” I say. He sticks it in his mouth.
“Chew chew chew; chomp, chomp, chomp,” I say. He exaggerates his chewing, and I mime along with him.
“Show me,” I say. He opens his mouth wide; sometimes still full of partially chewed food, sometimes empty. Always, we are both overjoyed, sharing the time, as he eats.
When he’s done, I feel an additional joy, as if I myself have been part of some great accomplishment. I know this is ridiculous. He’s eating, which he does with or without me –but, in this moment, I have taken part in my grandson’s nourishment.
“Woohoo,” I sing, a genuine expression of my own joy at being able to be in this moment. An over-reaction, over-dramatization? No. Grandparent living through this time will tell you, this is the very definition of true joy. This is as good as it gets.
At some point, in every call, Eitan stops, gets up from our play, pics up the iPad and we are on the move. I usually say, loud enough for the parents to hear: “Eitan, where are you taking us? Where are you taking Savta?” We hear one of his parents:”You’re talking with Savtas?” or “What are you doing?” or “Where are you going?”
(Truth – I am so enamored with this movement of his, with his ability to absolutely and so seamlessly include us in this, his play and his life, I don’t actually hear the words his parents are saying. feel their presence, but – I just hear him. I just feel him. I am for this moment, not at my home, so very far from him – I am, in this moment, in the moment. As I think about this now, I realize that throughout this whole crisis, throughout all the news, the illness, the confusion, the inexplicable and incomprehensible enormity of this disease — the only time I am in the moment, is when I am with Eitan — and when I am writing. And since my writing has inevitably been wrapped up with the virus – the only time I am in the moment and not with the virus and all that it entails, is when I am with Eitan, running around their apartment, in another city — but in his little hands, close to his belly, bouncing as he paddles from room to room.)
And he replies, “I got them. Got Savtas.”
“I got them.”
And at the end of one extra long morning, worn out from running around the apartment, showing us everything, carrying his momma’s iPad here and there, he took us to his bedroom, put the iPad on the floor, partially under his crib and stood up. Pointing at the bed, head bent, letting us know exactly what he wanted, “Savta sleep. Eitan bed. Sleep.” And he stood waiting for one of us to pick him up and tuck him into bed. – If only I could my little love, my prize.
Momma, Aba. Momma comes into the room. So wonderfully present for all of us, always, another blessing, that momma of his. She says, “Oh, okay. You’re ready to sleep? Say bye-bye Savtas, I love you.’’
“Love you,” and he throws us a half a dozen kisses – the screen goes dark and we all rest so much easier, the current events of the day temporarily erased, hidden from our souls.