Baby love

Lynne Baab and Nona. Photo supplied.
Lynne Baab and Nona. Photo supplied.
For new grandmother Lynne Baab, meeting a granddaughter separated by an ocean was the best.

Like many New Zealanders, my husband and I have a darling granddaughter on the other side of the world.

Unlike most Kiwis, however, my husband and I are the ones who left.

We're Americans from Seattle, and we moved to Dunedin in 2007 for me to take a position at the University of Otago.

Our son and daughter-in-law in Seattle are 35, and they started dating when they were 20, so we had many years to get to know our daughter-in-law.

In fact, when we moved here, I missed her as much as I missed our son.

We were in Seattle a little over a year ago, when our daughter-in-law was four months pregnant.

It was fun to see her tiny little bump. After we returned to Dunedin, I found it increasingly difficult to be here rather than there.

I wanted so badly to help her in some practical way in those last months of pregnancy.

After little Nona was born in March, my agony increased.

Yes, I wanted to hold her and get to know her, but I also deeply desired to help my daughter-in-law with the many practical challenges of taking care of a baby and household.

On October 16 - the best day - we got to meet Nona.

She was just short of 7 months old. On that first, wonderful day, we watched her roll around on the floor, obviously one of the most graceful babies ever born.

We watched her explore various toys, obviously so clever and curious.

She even played with some cardboard books, holding them just right and looking at them.

Obviously, she's going to love books and be a reader when she grows older.

Then I got to hold her.

She wanted to stand up on my lap, and I called her my ''stand up girl'' as I held her under her arms and felt those strong baby muscles in her torso.

My sons were both big babies, but Nona is very small for her age, so she felt delicate and athletic.

I gazed into her eyes, an unusual - and of course, beautiful - opaque greenish-brown with long eyelashes.

I pulled her towards me and kissed the delectable skin on her cheek.

I nuzzled my cheek against her downy head, and drew in that gorgeous, sweet baby smell.

Babies give such sensuous pleasure, and she gave me heaps of it on that first day with her.

Two weeks into our visit, she started smiling when I came into the room and talked to her.

My husband, Dave, was the first one of us to get her to laugh, but soon after that I figured out some funny sounds that brought a delicious laugh from her over and over.

Even on that first day I fixed dinner, and I did most of the cooking while I was there, which I don't think was particularly helpful because my daughter-in-law loves to cook.

But I needed to do it, to make up for the months when I couldn't help in any way.

We came back to Dunedin a week before Thanksgiving, and on the holiday I wanted to talk to my son and daughter-in-law and my mother, who was visiting them.

My son put his phone on speaker phone, and told me that when I spoke, Nona strained to get to it, as if she recognised my voice.

Then I spoke to her directly, using her name, and she squealed in response. Delicious.

Lynne Baab teaches at the University of Otago and blogs at lynnebaab.com.

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