And just like that, my first grandson has turned 1. Where did the time go?

stock photo
stock photo

My husband looks into the phone on our nightly FaceTime with Henry and whistles a happy tune from “The King and I.”

Now I’ve know this man for more than half my life and have never heard him whistle for the dog, much less a tune I can sing to. Hum out of tune, yes, but there he is, entertaining his grandson with this trait I didn’t know he had.

It’s been that kind of year for us, this first year of Henry. We’re discovering new things about each other and about our family, as we navigate the world of grandparenting.

We are saving things — like the Happy Birthday balloons that have danced around our family room for the past couple of weeks. I can’t bear to pop it, because Henry is 1, ONE! How is it possible? And savoring them in ways we never did when our own kids were zipping through the years.

Facebook has reminded me of the tiny form who nuzzled my chin in his soft newborn onesies. At 1, he looks like himself, and not, this baby who now understands things and zips from room to room while standing and holding on. He has teeth — four — a little boy now who loves peas and pizza and waffles, though his mother won’t let him have syrup. Yet.

I don’t know how we got here. Yesterday he was grunting in his Rock’n’Play, and now he cruises from drawer to drawer in my kitchen, pulling out pots, drumming with a wooden spoon on an upside-down salad bowl to a staccato beat.

His nose crinkles when he smiles, just like his mother’s — something I had forgotten all about until I saw him do it. His uncle is a crinkle-nosed smiler, too.

We see so much of his Pop in him. Baby pictures posted side-by-side in my sunroom show the twinning: strong nose, wide cheeks, open-mouthed smile. Even his toes are like my husband’s. When he shoves food into his mouth, it’s usually with his left hand; both his Dad and I are lefties. Sometimes a picture of him will look a bit like me at 1.

He has his father’s eyes and funny demeanor. And we will swear that even at this young age, his is showing a talent for music when he shakes a tambourine. His mom had a gift for piano, and she used to fill our house with her melodies until she gave it up in middle school.

How can all of us be folded into this one little boy? It’s a marvel.

These days, mothers-to-be have 3-D ultrasounds about the 18th week of pregnancy. When they look at the image now, my daughter says that Henry’s profile in the ultrasound is exactly like it is now, his face in utero form into who we would soon meet.

Henry had nine guests at his party — two grandmothers, two great-grandmothers, his parents, one grandfather, uncle and aunt. (His other grandfather was under the weather and couldn’t come.)

I bought him a birthday outfit — a size bigger than he actually wears, thinking when I bought it that he’d grow into it, which is so what my mother would do. He may be able to wear it next year, it is so big.

All nine of us followed him around from room to room, taking pictures, oohing and aahing at him when he smiled, which is pretty much all the time.

My daughter had planned everything around his favorite book, “Dear Zoo,” a hide-and-seek story of a child who writes to the zoo for a special pet, but all the pets are the wrong fit, until he finally gets a puppy. She ordered napkins and animal masks for us to wear. We had a “Dear Zoo” cake made for the adults and a “smash cake” for Henry.

Henry feasted on his first chicken nugget. We put the cake in front of him and he eyed the candle while his parents blew it out. Then he smashed it perfectly, shoveling cake and icing into his mouth like the best of earth movers.

Later, as my daughter gathered Henry’s new toys, deciding what to take on the plane or leave for his next visit, she asked a question: “Is it too early to plan for Camp Pop & Sooze this summer?”

Camp Pop & Sooze. That’s a thing?

She knows I hated camp. Three days into a two-week stay I begged my mother to come and get me.

But this time maybe Pop will whistle a happy tune. And I’ll already be home, with Henry there.

Susan Byrum Rountree is the author of “Nags Headers” and “In Mother Words.” She can be reached a and on social media.
Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer