Saturday, December 26, 2009


When Rebecca was one years old, my son and his wife had a son, Aiden. For a long time during the pregnancy, I was worried about whether I could love another child as much as Rebecca. Worried too, that I wouldn’t be able to hide it and everyone would know, including the baby. I vaguely remember thinking the same thing when I was pregnant with my second child. Is it possible to love someone else this much?

He was a tiny stranger that I couldn’t connect with at first. When he was a newborn, I’d hold him and sing to him. His eyes would watch me, but I had a hard time getting him to smile. It seems odd now because one of Aiden’s nicest features is his sense of humor. He has a great laugh and loves it when words sound weird to him. He’ll laugh really hard, then bring up the word again, and start laughing all over again.

After he was a couple of months old, for the rest of his first year of his life, whenever I went over to baby-sit he would scream his head off. I know they say that a child doesn’t have fear of strangers before 6 months or so, but he knew his mom and dad were out. He would scream like I had just stuck him with a pin. He would scream so hard my ears would hurt. It didn’t matter whether he was at his house or mine. Same thing. I would walk with him and rock him or just put him in his crib. It didn’t matter.

One day when he was just starting to crawl, I stuck out my toes and I tickled his little toes with mine. He gave me a big smile, he laughed, and he put his tiny hand on my toes and tickled me back. That did it. We were friends for life. He never cried with me again unless he hurt himself or dropped his pacifier or wanted to get up from his nap.
He began as a redhead, but now is a mixture of blond and red. His eyes are a grayish light blue just like my father’s eyes. He had a really big smile and a sweet dimple on his left cheek that just knocks me out. To me, he looks like a little Norwegian child, but sometimes looks very Irish. He is fastidious and loves to clean. Give him a spray bottle of water and a wad of paper towels and he’s a happy guy. He’ll dry mop the whole condo. He has asked Santa for a vacuum. When I took him to Target, we had to look at each one very carefully before we could move on.

He is smart and funny and very shy. Strangers will try to talk to him because he’s so handsome, but he is not in the least interested. Aiden will hide behind my legs. He’s the kind of kid you need to coax into trying new things, like getting into a pool or trying a piece of equipment at the park. He is an introvert, without guile, a sweetheart of a boy. He can be heartbreakingly compliant, then refusing to do even simple things. If I get tough with him about his behavior, he’ll smile and hug me. Or he'll say with a sly little smile, "You mad at me, Gramma?" Aside from cleaning supplies, he loves his blue blankie and his pacifier the best. Give him those two items and he will slide into sleep in seconds.

Last summer I had a few hours with him at the beach, just he and I. The only way I could get him into the ocean was by filling up buckets of water for our sandcastle. Finally he got wet, but I never got him in past his knees. Maybe next summer.
We have a standing date to go to the library. Lots of times he is dressed and ready to go, standing outside, looking down for my car. When I open my car door I can hear him yelling, "Gramma! Gramma!" If I yell up to him on the patio, "Hello, Darling Boy," he will answer, "Hello, Darling!"  This is our routine. We sing our way to the library with "The Wheels on the Bus," and "Puff the Magic Dragon," all the while looking for red-tailed hawks in the sky. When we arrive at the library, I take out the roll of pennies I've picked up so we can throw them into the fountain outside the little cafe at the entrance. Sometimes he'll throw 1, or sometimes, 20 pennies at once. We go to the cafe. He drinks a smoothie, whileI have tea. He shares my bagel, but also wants a peanut butter cookie.

We ride the elevator, all the while Aiden is pushing the right button for the library, then the handicapped button that opens the entrance door. I let him pick as many books as I can carry generally about 10.  He always gets a couple of Curious George's because he recognizes the yellow covers. We are both lovers of books.

On our way to the check out desk, Aiden rushes over to get the stool so he can hand the librarian his stack of book choices. Then we do everything again in reverse, handicapped door opener, but he pushes the "Garage" button this time. He loves garages and insists that we park under the building.

Aiden is going to have a new baby sister this summer. I’m really glad he is not going to be an only child.
Learning to love a new person stretches you, makes your work harder to know them. He'll be a great big brother, protective and tough with anyone who might hurt her, but he'll teach her to laugh, to love books, to wrestle, and I'm willing to bet, to clean. When I look at him, I love him so much it makes my heart ache.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

That Barbie Girl Has Everything!

When my daughter, Elizabeth, was in elementary school my father built a wonderful two story doll house for her. My mom put in carpet scraps for the flooring and beige drapes with golden swags for the living room windows. For the next Christmas, I spent all my nights after my daughter had gone to bed, sitting crossed legged on my couch, bent over sewing everything completely by hand. I didn’t even wear glasses then. I was in my late twenties, but I would get up to go to bed around 1 or 2 only after I almost lost circulation in my legs.

I made beds using unused books for frames, Kapok-filled mattresses, little blankets, and even a faux bulletin board for the kitchen wall. It was made of black construction paper, brown paper bags, and tiny multi-colored beads for push pins. I hung it on the little wall with a piece of jute. I even made teeny weenie notes and glued red and orange beads onto the top of the paper so they looked real. I also made overstuffed chairs out of small milk cartons and filling. Oh, and with matching pillows.

I remember it as a very happy time in my life, totally engaged, feeling very happy and creative, and anticipating how much fun she would have with it. Well, my daughter is 35, very pregnant with her second child, and she is the mother of my 5 year old granddaughter, Rebecca. A few years ago I had given Rebecca a used Barbie Recreation Vehicle I bought at a thrift shop. Since then the RV had become somewhat shabby and faded, but still she loves it and continues to play with it.

This child has so many toys and will get many more. So I asked her if she would like it if I renovated the RV for her for Christmas. She liked the idea. I asked her what color she wanted it. She replied, “Blue.” For the past few weeks I’ve been haunting fabric, hardware, and doll stores gathering supplies. I put down good money at Ace Hardware for paint that works on plastic (Krylon is great by the way). I went to Whippersnappers in Lafayette to buy itty bitty Coke cans, a little box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and an inch long metal whisk. I kind of became obsessed. My wonderful niece, Michele, let me spend a day at her house using her sewing machine, calling out over and over for her to fix the bobbin or rethread the needle. (She was adorable about it and I owe her a morning of babysitting!)

So the RV is all done. I knew I was done when I found myself at midnight last night making a very little paper towel holder for the RV kitchen.

I made it out of a cut up Tootsie Pop stick and paper towels sliced up with manicure scissors. My creative juices have been spent and my back is tired. So here’s what I made: Bedding and pillows, fleece comforters, curtains, a bathrobe, beach bag and matching towels, seat cushions, tablecloth and napkins, and much more that I can’t remember.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Silent Night

      She has strawberry blonde hair, almond shaped eyes, a sweet round face, and smiles most of the time. My newest grandbaby is just four months old, all gums when she's happy, and ears that stick out a teense, just enough to be endearing.  Her name is Franny and we are just beginning to know one another. I discovered this week that she might be musical, or at least "very advanced."
     When I was taking care of her this week, she became a little fussy. I sat down on the rocker, put her head over my shoulder, and began patting her bottom. I began to sing "Silent Night."  Recently when I talk to her, Franny makes noises back at me to signal her pleasure, but this was different. With my mouth next to her ear, I sang the song softly.  She began to hum, holding her sounds long enough to match the words. As I sang, "silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright,"  she was right with me. She kept it up through the whole song, then nodded off at the end. Is that even possible? My son says she does that in church with the choir.
     Even if she isn't a musical prodigy, Franny is clearly delighted to be alive, thrilled she can pull herself up to a sitting position by holding tight to my fingers, struggling with everything she has to make sounds that show me how happy she is to be here with us.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I could see her shadow through the window. I knew it was her because I know her perfect profile, the way her hair moves when she’s excited, the shape of her compact body. I watched as her head bounced while she jumped up and down as soon as she recognized me standing outside her preschool door. There was just enough light through the darkened glass to see a huge smile on her face. My granddaughter, Rebecca, just turned 5 years old.
I don’t know about you, but my grandchildren are the only people in my life who are thrilled to distraction just by my arrival. I think that is the essence of being a grandmother for me. We are exactly true to our feelings, her and me. There are no pretenses between us. If I was able to jump up and down when I saw her, I would have.
Did my own children act that excited when I picked them up at school? Did they? I don’t remember. They might have, but I don’t think so. I had so much stuff on my mind, so much responsibility that I wouldn’t have noticed: Which is exactly the difference between parenting and grandparenting.
As a young mother I was the daily presence who told them to eat vegetables and be quiet in church, do homework, be quiet when I was on the phone. I noticed things, but not on this level. I was always projecting into the future about the kind of people I wanted them to be.
Now I notice everything. Being with my grandchildren is an extreme mindfulness I practiced in meditation. I am right in the moment with them when I’m in their presence. No past, no future, just RIGHT NOW. My meditation teacher told me that our natural state is joy. He said, “Picture joy like a bright shiny mirror covering our hearts. Most of the time this mirror is covered with things like worry, regret, anger, and fear. These negative emotions cloud the mirror so we don’t feel the joy. But joy, which is our natural state, is always there. Paying attention, being in the moment, cleans the mirror and allows the joy to come through.”
When I am with my grandchildren, I am so focused on them, letting them take the lead, that I feel nothing but joy.