I'm sure those of us with grandchildren all remember where we were when we heard they had been born. Those nail-biting days beforehand. That overwhelming joy to know that mother and baby were fine ... or more serious nail-biting if all is not as we'd hoped.
But this grandson's arrival was a bit different for me. I was over half way through my Grown-up Gap Year. My daughter had told me she was pregnant three weeks before I set off - and a week before she returned to her job in Caracas.
The original plan was for her to have the baby in Venezuela and I would go out to help when she went back to work - my travels would be completed by then. But Chavez was already in power and threatening to refuse exit visas to any child born in the country until he or she reached 18. (It was an attempt to stop the trade in beautiful brown babies to childless couples in America). And so she decided to return to the UK for the birth. (As things have turned out, he's 'British-Venezuelan' and not 'Venezuelan-British' which makes his position in this country more secure.)
So ... would I carry on travelling and catch up with them six months later, or go home to meet him?
My daughter was wheeled into the delivery room as I boarded the plane in Singapore. By the time I changed planes in Amsterdam I was a grandmother. I spent a week at home, consumed by those early baby days, and then headed back to Heathrow, with tears in my eyes and my (now-battered) rucksack on my back. Five weeks later, my daughter and grandson returned to Caracas. They are now, for those who are worried, safely back in the UK.
What if ...
- The baby news had led me to change all my plans and fly out to Caracas to support her for the last few months of her pregnancy and early baby days.
- she had decided to have the baby in Venezuela, settled there, and been caught in the current political upheavals
- I had stuck to my original plans ... how would she and I have felt about that?
- the baby hadn't had all his fingers and toes and faced weeks in special care?
As a writer, I could, if I chose, play with these events and grow a story that bore no resemblance to what really happened. Surely that's one of the joys of being a writer. I'm sure you, too, have family tales that could evolve into something totally different?
If you want to read more about my travels, you can find them here.