ON CHRISTMAS EVE my mom’s parents were supposed to arrive to stay with us for the holiday. Mom had been the second youngest of their four kids. When she died, it became a tradition for them to come and stay with us at Christmas, and celebrate while looking after us on that tough holiday. At times it had been with my aunt and uncles coming with my cousins too, but this year they were all away on opposite sides of the country with new grandkids for the older two, and a job my youngest uncle couldn’t leave that year.
I always had mixed feelings when they arrived! I loved them both, but Grandma Suzy had never seen me as amounting to anything other than her adorable baby grandson who would never grow up. Only last year we’d gone out as a family for dinner and they’d insisted on driving. She had opened up the back door and insisted that I ride in a rear-facing car seat she installed! Presents of babyish clothes, stuffed animals, and even a stroller one year, made me dread her visits. Grandma was even taller than mom had been, being about eleven-and-a-half feet tall, and she was what I would call a ‘typical Amazon.’ If it weren’t for Dad doing well in his career, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her having adopted both of us after Mom died. Any time she visited, which fortunately was mainly only at Christmas, I could depend on being picked up as soon as she walked in the door, and carried around like a doll for most of her visit.
Grandpa Frank was a few inches over ten-feet tall, but a lot more reasonable about my size. He would always try and run interference for me, and I did my best to stay closer to him so she wouldn’t feel the need to constantly hold me. He was pretty good about saying, “Now Suzy, Cameron isn’t a baby or a Little…”
Last year she’d argued back that I still hadn’t passed the six-foot mark, so I was a Little. That afternoon we’d been shopping and Dad had to talk her down from buying me at least some Pull-Ups to protect the rental car…
Strangely, in spite of that I couldn’t help but love them though, so that was why I didn’t tell Grandma to just get lost. There had always been something about when she held me that made me feel safe… and honestly really reminded me of my mom who I still missed! I had seen pictures of Mom when she was younger, and compared them with Grandma; other than her darker hair, Mom had been like a miniature version of Grandma. She even had the same eyes that I remembered my mom had.
Dad had always insisted on the house being absolutely spotless before they came, so we’d spent a week deep cleaning every room in the house. I’d tossed a bunch of old clothes and childhood toys from my room on our run to the dump this past week. It had driven me crazy as a young kid when Dad went psycho for the pre-visit cleaning! As I got older though, I realized that as a Mid himself, he was worried Grandma would make a case that he wasn’t mature enough to take care of me – or himself – and force me… or both of us to go with her so she could properly ‘take care of us.’
Fortunately for both of us that had never happened, but I understood his caution more in the last couple years!
It was afternoon and they had called to say they were just boarding the plane to come. “Dad, I’m going to run Beth’s present over to her house…”
He looked up from the plate he was washing in the sink. “You sure that’s a good idea? I mean I know you bought something that should be considered appropriate…”
I looked at him and said, “I have to at least tell her Merry Christmas, Dad…”
“You sure it’s Addison that you’re in love with?”
“Dad…” I sighed, “If Beth had crossed the finish line… Yeah, I probably would have wanted to go out with her at some point. But she’s always been my best friend more than anything else. It really hurt when she disappeared. I understand her dad is worried about being watched, but I’m just being a good friend and bringing a present for the baby…”
He turned and gave me a hug, “I’m sorry Cam, I hate that this world is like this. Go take care of that, but don’t overstay your welcome. I need you back in an hour at the most.”
“Sure,” I told him and grabbed my coat to walk over to her house. A couple of inches of snow had fallen a couple days ago, but mostly melted. You could see little piles in the shadows though, and the icicles dripping water from Beth’s house were probably as doomed as she had been in life. I rang the doorbell, and waited a minute.
Beth’s dad was holding her on his hip, “Oh, hi Cameron.”
“Hi Mr. Fehler. You had mentioned it would be okay to give a gift to Beth for Christmas?”
He bounced her up and down, and it was then that I noticed she was wearing only a pink sweatshirt with a unicorn on it, and a spotless diaper that must have just been changed. The sweatshirt looked like it had gone ten-rounds with a couple of different colored jars of baby food though.
“Come on in Cameron. Beth, can you say ‘Hi’ to Cameron?”
She blushed and leaned into her dad in an odd, almost uncoordinated way. “Hi Am” she still couldn’t seem to get a ‘C’ sound out of her mouth. I suspected they had done something else to her tongue while they’d been working on her teeth…
“Hi Beth,” I told her, “Merry Christmas!” I said as Mr. Fehler sat her down on the ground sitting up. She plopped forward and managed to crawl over to me. I reached down and gave her a hug, sat down, and pulled her onto my lap. With my growth spurt I had a head’s height on her and put my chin on her head.
“Erry Ismas,” she said to me.
“How has your break been?” Her dad asked me as he gave me a head nod towards the camera that I took that as meaning I needed to be careful.
“It’s been good, my grandparents are coming in here shortly, so I thought I would just drop off Beth’s present.”
“You had a good sense of timing, I just finished feeding Lizzie her nummy lunch.” He sighed, “Of course she didn’t seem to appreciate it,” he motioned to her front.
I looked at the kitchen table and could see a jar of peas, another of carrots, and some mac and cheese concoction sitting with their lids on, but a little still in each. I felt my stomach tie itself in knots as I considered being forced to eat baby food for the rest of my life like she was.
“I can see that,” I told him. “Beth has always been a bit of a messy eater though, hasn’t she?” I tickled her side for the cameras and was rewarded with giggling. I hugged her again.
“Well, she needs to get her nap in now,” he said.
“No Ap!” She told her dad with a whine.
“How about Cameron feeds you your bottle?” he suggested diplomatically.
She looked up at me with eyes that clearly didn’t know what she wanted to do. I could see the embarrassment by the red of her cheeks, but there was a look of longing too that I felt was asking me to. “Pease?” she asked me quietly.
“Sure,” I told him.
A few moments later he handed me the bottle and picked her up and I followed them upstairs to her room… ‘Not room…’ I admitted, ‘Nursery…’
I looked down at the baby bottle in my hands and felt like I was holding a grenade. It wasn’t one like we had when we were babies, this was one for a Bigs’ toddler. It was like a liter bottle of coke. The nipple was large and would certainly even fill my own mouth quite easily. I blushed at holding it, but knew I had to be a ‘Big’ in my behavior and not think of it as a big deal.
The door had her babyish name of ‘Lizzie’ that she hated as a teenager on it in carved baby blocks. The nursery was covered in unicorns, which was actually not that different from when she’d been a teenager. She’d always been obsessed with collecting glass unicorns, but there were only plushy ones now.
“Why don’t you sit down in the rocking chair and I’ll hand her to you?”
I climbed up. She wasn’t that much smaller than me, but she was skinnier. He draped her over my lap and I was able to use the arms of the chair to help support her. I looked at her beautiful face that opened and showed me the smile with no teeth remaining. It was like a horror movie knowing the depression and everything she must be going through. I hesitated as I brought the bottle to her mouth, but pushed the nipple inside and held it for her. She placed her hands on-top of mine, and sucked what I assumed was formula from the bottle. We looked into each other’s eyes while she nursed it and I watched liquid and bubbles travel through the bottle. Mr. Fehler disappeared for a few minutes and she pushed the bottle away.
“Am you no ome ba, dan” she struggled, “danjuh.”
“Beth…” I complained.
“No, no mo,” She said and pulled the bottle back into her mouth. Tears were running down her face as she drank and I felt her diaper warm on my leg.
When the bottle was empty her dad had reappeared, picked her up, burped her gently, and then placed her sleepily into the crib after checking her diaper. He nodded for me to follow him. He walked with me outside, “Cameron, you really can’t come back here… She’s got a case worker that reviews the video. She saw you in the film the other day, and I have a feeling if you reappear too many more times, she’s going to declare you…”
I sighed, “I guess that doesn’t surprise me sir. Look, take care of her please… but if you ever get a chance to undo…”
“Believe me, I know Cameron… I never wanted anything but her to grow up and have a happy life.”
I sighed, “Thank you… as bad as everything is for her, at least she’s loved. If you’re still living here next year maybe I can swing by for Christmas again?”
He nodded, “The heat might be off by then,” he told me as he held out his hand.
I shook it and walked back home in a fouler mood than I had hoped I’d be in. I barely acknowledged Dad’s greeting as I walked back upstairs to my room and sat down at my computer. My phone dinged and I saw a message from Addy. I ended up chatting with her via video for a half-hour before Dad said, “Cam, your grandparents are leaving the airport now.”
“Thanks,” I told him and looked back at Addy on the screen.
“Cam?” she asked with a smile.
I blushed, “It was his nickname for me growing up.”
“Hmm… Okay Cam, sounds like you need to go,” she smiled.
I groaned and stuck my tongue out at her, “You’re right. Love you, I’ll talk to you tomorrow sometime.”
“See you then,” she told me with a smile. “Love you too!”
I cut the connection and walked downstairs to the living room. Dad and I sat for fifteen minutes before a large SUV pulled in behind his car. I took a deep breath before stepping outside to greet my grandparents. Grandma was the first out of the car and greeted Dad first since he was in front. “Roger, it’s good to see you!” She wrapped him in a tight hug straight into her breasts.
“You too Suzy,” he said awkwardly.
I looked up at her as she walked towards me, “And who are you? You can’t be my little Cameron? Your dad said you had shot up a few inches and he wasn’t kidding!” She picked me up like I still a toddler and hugged me tight before kissing me on my forehead. “It’s so good to see you Cameron,” she told me.
“You too Grandma,” I told her. I hoped I was getting heavy enough she wouldn’t carry me inside, but a few inches just weren’t enough for that. My head still only came up to the belt that held her slacks up, and she was able to easily carry me just like I was a little kid.
After everything that day I wasn’t overly fond of this arrangement, “Grandma why don’t you put me down so I can help Grandpa with your luggage?”
“Hmm… I guess you are getting to be a big boy after all, aren’t you?” She kissed me on my nose and did place me down on my feet.
I walked back to where he was unloading the suitcases and was enveloped in a hug from him. “It’s good to see you Grandpa,” I told him with a smile.
“You too Cameron,” he said and squeezed me tight. “You really have done some growing up this year, haven’t you?”
I shrugged, “Almost six-and-half-feet tall now, not that big compared to you and Grandma.”
“No, but I was worried you’d never cross the Little line,” he told me with a smile.
I grimaced, “I was too…” They had three large suitcases that were at my chin height standing on their wheels. There were also a couple more carry-on bags that were more reasonable that he said, “Why don’t you grab those, I’ll grab these two, your dad can grab that one, and your Grandma can grab her makeup bag there…”
I nodded and pulled the two smaller suitcases up the porch, and into the house. It was a bit more daunting to carry them up the stairs to our guest bedroom, but I managed to just do it, even though I was nearly sweating and dropping them by the time I reached the top. Meanwhile Grandpa and Dad carried the other ones like they were nothing!
I let them begin unpacking and walked down to my room to grab my tablet. I looked around my room for a moment before going downstairs to sit down on the couch in the living room. I had a novel I’d started reading the day before and figured I’d wait for them to finish unpacking before we had the dinner that Dad had started working on earlier.
It wasn’t too long before Grandma was back down and sat on the couch next to me. Given it was a couch meant for a Big she had no problems sitting down on it. I was just getting ready to finish a chapter, so I was a bit annoyed when she reached over and picked me up to put me on her lap sideways so she could see me.
“So, how’s my big college boy been? Have you been good or been partying all the time?”
I sighed, “Grandma I’ve always been a good kid. I haven’t been to one party this year… well unless you count my girlfriend’s parents’ company’s Christmas party last week.”
“Girlfriend? That Beth girl you always hung around? She lives just down the street, doesn’t she?”
I grimaced, “No… Beth’s always been just a friend. My girlfriend’s name is Addison.”
Grandpa came in right then, “Go you! Do we get to meet her?”
I shrugged, “She said she might run over here tomorrow if she can get away from her parents. From what she said her mom pretty much only cares about the new Little they adopted.”
“Little? Her parents are big?”
I laughed, “Grandma, her parents make you look short.”
“And just how tall is this girlfriend?” Grandpa asked.
“Here, I have a picture of the two of them,” Dad said coming in with his larger tablet. He showed them the pictures from the other night.
“She’s beautiful!” Grandma said, “But isn’t she too tall for you Cameron? Is that a good idea? Or… are you looking for a mommy?”
I looked up at her, “She is my girlfriend, not my mommy. I admit it’s unusual, but it worked for Mom and Dad, and we both love each other enough that size doesn’t matter.”
“Well, she is gorgeous,” Grandma admitted, “and she did have a very handsome date,” she said squeezing me tight.
“How are your grades?” Grandpa asked me, I could tell he was changing the subject.
“My lowest grade was a ninety-eight,” I told him. “I made the Dean’s High Honor List.”
“Good job!” He said, “So the dating isn’t dragging down your grades?”
I laughed, “The grades are what led to the dating.”
Before I could get dragged into anything more conversation wise a timer went off in the kitchen and we were all soon eating dinner. Dad and I both had to deal with a way too helpful Grandma at times, but she mostly behaved herself until it was time to go to bed.
She was someone who would never break with tradition, and so she gave me a present to open on Christmas Eve. It was something my mom had done before she passed away, and Grandma had taken up the torch when she was gone. I knew it would be something with pajamas in it that would make me feel embarrassed, but even then, I felt obligated to open it for my mom’s sake. I tore the red wrapping paper with green cartoon Christmas trees all over it off. Inside I saw there was a plaid-colored bundle of cloth. It was in a surprisingly boring shade of red and black pattern. I pulled it out and opened it, seeing that it was a one-piece footed pajama set. Until you made it to the feet, they were actually something I could see a college kid wearing around the dorm.
The reindeer feet though kind of took that away. They had red noses and little antler pieces that stuck out above each foot. I noticed too that there were bells on them that made a little bit of noise even as I held them. They were sure to jingle every time I took a step!
“Umm… thanks Grandma,” I told her.
“Keep looking in there,” she told me.
I looked over to the side and saw there was a container of some hot chocolate meant for Littles, and a copy of an old Christmas cartoon that aired every year on an old disc. We had a player, but Dad and I almost never used it since everything could be downloaded or streamed.
I sighed in my head, but said, “Thank you Grandma, I appreciate it.”
She picked me up and gave me a hug before setting me down and jokingly giving me a swat on my butt. “Go put them on, I want to see you wearing them. Then we can have some of that hot chocolate and go to bed.”
I looked suspiciously at the hot chocolate and noticed that it was endorsed by SafeFoods, Inc. Having a bad feeling about it I said, “Umm… Actually, not to be rude Grandma, but Dad and I picked up some hot chocolate the other day that I think we all might enjoy more. The Little stuff is too sweet honestly.”
“Oh…” she said, taken aback, “Well, I don’t disagree about Littles liking their sweets more… Let’s try this other stuff you have then Roger.”
I gave him a pointed look and he said, “Sure, give me a little bit. I think it’s got to be made with milk. Takes a bit to get put together. Cameron, go put on your Christmas jammies and I’ll have it done shortly.”
I hoped he read the ‘thank you’ in my eyes, as well as the swearing about the pajamas. Even as I carried them up to my room they jangled! I managed to bring myself to put them on and felt like I was suddenly more like Beth than myself… ‘At least there are no diapers involved…’ I thought grimly.
I walked down the stairs for the walk of shame to show my grandmother the pajamas. Just as I expected every damn step you could hear me walking. “Well, no worries about you sneaking down to peek at what Santa left you, huh?” Dad joked.
I would have strongly considered flipping him off if he was a friend. Instead, I said, “Haha… funny Dad.”
At least Dad came through with the hot chocolate, and Grandma kept trying to figure out the secret ingredients of the new mix. He later told me it was vodka… Grandpa had quietly suggested it!
I very carefully dumped the Little stuff out later that night. When I went to bed that night, I sat in bed on my phone and researched it. It was sweeter, so I wasn’t lying about that. I was also right to avoid drinking it because it seemed to have something inside of it that caused bedwetting in most Littles…