The Box

A few months after Rollo was born, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and stringent lockdown rules were enforced in South Africa. You could buy food and other essentials, but that was pretty much it.

Because Emma was relatively new to motherhood, she’d get rather sleep-deprived and overwhelmed on occasion. I’d babysit for a few hours while she snatched a catch-up nap.

Although she was usually very careful not to take advantage of my services—I’d been known to say that I was the granny, not the nanny with monotonous regularity—this time, Rollo stayed in the big house a little longer than planned.

He was about three months old at that stage and wide awake. I needed both hands to make supper.

His pram was stashed in Em’s flat, and I didn’t want to make a noise getting it out. He was already too big for that little car seat thing that came with the pram. I was in a quandary.

I really needed to make supper, not only for the humans either.

The cats eyed me hungrily, and Gemma hopped from dainty little foot to foot.

I cast an eye around the kitchen and saw a box sitting on the tumble drier. It was a nice sturdy box that, in its past life, had contained twelve bottles of fancy wine from some or other estate in Cape Town. Left over from when my sister came to visit and had a family braai. A quick test confirmed that it would do nicely with a bit of padding.

I’d had to use it as a washing basket a couple of days earlier when my usual one was missing.

Grabbed it with one hand and gave it a shake.  Then plonked said box onto the kitchen counter. Grabbed one of the dry swimming towels that was slung over a chair and made a little nest inside.

Rollo had no objections when I placed him gently into it.

He sat happily on the counter whilst I went about my culinary business.

Em sauntered in later, yawning and bleary-eyed, apologizing for being so late. She spotted Rollo ensconced in the box and snorted.


 She didn’t know whether to be outraged or ticked off with herself for not thinking of the box solution earlier.

My lovely publishers, Pete and Sharon, kindly lent us their grandchild’s high chair that he hadn’t used for years. Against all lockdown regulations, Em and I snuck out to fetch it early one morning. It was fabulous but still a little large for the wee lad. He would slip through the leg holes and had to be wedged in with a rolled-up blanket.  It worked well at the dining room table for meals. Not that he was eating his meals with us, but he presided over the family each evening and kept us all entertained.

Well, all except Vetboy, that is.

Somehow, it was much easier to feed him all his meals in the box on the kitchen counter. Plus, we could turn it around and then he had a nice view of the garden whilst waiting for his food.

The weeks passed, and he grew steadily sturdier and soon could hold his own head up. Some of the padding in the box was removed as he started to fill up the space himself. Still, he happily sat in the box and gobbled his food like a little bird.

When he hit the eight-month mark, for Em’s birthday,  I wrote a little book—Rollo the Trollo has a Surprise. It’s illustrated with pictures of Rollo in his box.

More time passed, and he learned to lean out and grab things. Then his legs got too long for the box, so I modified it and made leg holes.

I also used up a roll of packaging tape because it was starting to fall apart.

It was only when Rollo leaned over one day and the whole box tipped that we decided the time had finally come to retire his cardboard counter chair for something safer.

He’s now heading for three years old in December and is almost too big for the high chair.

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