I remember when Aerin, my first niece, was born. I was visiting one day after my classes at the university and Mina was on the phone, talking to her husband. I remember sitting in her living room, playing on my phone while Aerin was in her walker, walking around the living room, being the absolute cutest. I hear Mina raising her voice, talking about something that her husband didn’t get around to doing. I hear the beeping of the phone and she comes into the living room, stressed out.
“Hyeongkwan forgot to do the one important thing that needed to be done today. What am I going to do now? It has to be done before they close later today and I have no idea how I’m going to travel an hour away with the baby.”
I looked at Aerin, then back up at Mina.
“I’ll watch her for you.” Mina shook her head, trying to gather things that were left in the living room. Mina always panic-cleaned when she was stressed.
“I wouldn’t ask you to do that for me, Jamie.” She protested.
I got up from the sofa to face Mina.
“Noona, she’s my niece. If you need someone to watch her while you handle this business, then I can watch her.” I smiled at Mina to reassure her everything was going to be fine. “Besides, it’s just one baby; It can’t be that hard to watch her.”
I learned that day that sometimes, you just have to eat your words.
Little bean was a calm baby. She never seemed fussy or upset; she simply played with her toys as I sat on the rug with her. She’s definitely got so much bigger since I last saw her. From what Grace told me last year, Willow was not only an April baby, she was a April baby that had the same birthday as me. In Korea, when someone shares the same birth year as you, you’re considered friends. Well, Willow and I are technically not friends, but she’s definitely a buddy of mine.
I never considered myself to be a person that wanted kids. I felt like I had no business having my own kids with the type of work I was into. I simply didn’t want to bring someone in this world if I knew I wouldn’t be present for them. I wonder if Grace ever felt that way? I know Little bean was unplanned, but I wonder if Grace thought the same way: don’t plan to have kids if you knew you couldn’t be there for them.
Nevertheless, Little bean has brought something out of me in the months I’ve known Grace. She has such similar qualities to her mother; she’s tiny and quiet, but when she wants something, she is persistent in getting it. I watch as Little bean squealed in excitement over a toy she was holding.
“She never lets anyone hold her,” Grace sat across from me that day in the cafe. It was only the second time I actually saw Grace in person since we first met. I was surprised to see her this time with a baby stroller next to her. I knew she was in her mid-20’s, but she didn’t strike me as a person who was in the career she was in and come home to a family. She had to be married if she had a child.
She seemed really happy that her daughter was not being finicky int his moment. Her daughter sat in my lap, calm, chewing on her teething toy. I continued helping Grace with her paperwork and asking the basic law questions, but Grace was distracted in what was happening between her daughter on my lap. I stopped talking and looked down at the child, who looked up at me.
“I’m sorry, I’m still very shocked about Willow. She must really like you.” Grace said as she put down her pen. I smiled and looked at Grace.
“We’re best friends now.” I jokingly said.
I watched as Little bean stood stop and dragged her toy across the rug to her other toys. She returned back with a toy and handed it to me.
“You brought me a friend?” I held the puppy plushie as she smiled. I placed the toy on my lap and saw her continue playing with her toys. She would occasionally look back at me to see if I was still here with her. I would nod and smile at her, and she would immediately go back to playing. Watching her was extremely easy, of course it was time to put her to bed.
Little bean is a crier when she wants to be; I learned that early on being with Grace. When she was working on her case, she would try to put Willow to bed and it always took longer than expected. Maybe Little bean just doesn’t like to fall to sleep, but she definitely gets cranky when you wake her up from her sleep.
She just wouldn’t stop crying no matter how much I bounced her in my arms. I finally put her down in her crib and sat on the floor next to it. She looked through the bars of the crib like she was in a prison cell.
“Little bean, you have to get some sleep. Mama will be home soon.” I started to get up from the floor and she screamed in protest. I looked down at her, suddenly obeying her demands.
“Do you want me to stay?” Willow said nothing in response, but she did stop crying for the moment. I take one of the pillows from the rocker and place it on the floor; I was exhausted from the long day with Little bean.
“Hey, Little bean,” I started to talk to Willow as if she is willing to actually engage and answer me back. I looked up at the ceiling, laying in Little bean’s room like it was a confession.
“Something’s up with Mama,” I admitted. “She’s taking longer than usual, don’t you think?” I looked over at the crib. Willow just lays there with her favorite seal plushie.
“I hope she’s okay. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her.” I pondered on the thought. It’s crazy to think that we both survived half a year without being in each other’s presence and still worry about her. I know she was coming back, but I was anxious how she would come back. Would she be happy? Would she be sad? Would she come home in tears, and I would have to hold her until she fell asleep? Grace was unpredictable, and something tells me this “errand” was a serious one to run.
I turned my head to see Little bean laying down, playing with her plushie as she looked at me.
“Did I ever tell you how much I love your Mama?” I don’t know what came over me, but I felt like telling Willow because if anyone is the one person that is important in Grace’s life, it’s her daughter. I know she can’t understand what I’m saying, but I felt like she needed to know. Willow needs to know that her mom is the greatest person ever. Grace never gives herself enough credit. She thinks she’s not good enough, especially when it comes to taking care of Willow. I don’t understand her logic behind it, but I know she struggles with ever feeling right about it, but I still hope she knows that she’s amazing, beautiful, hard-working…
I don’t remember much after saying what I said to Willow. Maybe I drifted in my thoughts straight to sleep; maybe I was just that exhausted that I don’t remember anything after that. But, I’m assuming Little bean went to sleep along with me; she definitely was the supervisior in this situation.