Doesn’t everyone think their grandchildren are the very best ones around?
Of course, my own grandson is truly amazing. At twenty-one months, his vocabulary is something of a shock: he is able to attach names to objects and emotions rather than simply repeating them all back to me like a parrot who doesn’t know what it is saying.
He knows well over two hundred words (we gave up counting); additionally, mini-sentences have now been added to the linguistic mix. “I love you, Nana.” Or, “See you soon, Nana.” Or even, “Nana! Nana mek eggs!” His imperious tone convinces me to get down on the floor with him and put wooden food–like eggs, green peppers and a purple eggplant–into the tiny frying pan.
He can even pronounce the difficult and precious word “Dalmatian.” During our most recent visit, we visited the penguins and grizzly bears at the zoo, stuffed ourselves at an Italian bistro where we watched him eat a plate of meatballs, two slices of pizza, and a dish of ice cream. Then we got dirty at the playground as we shoveled sand into another child’s bucket. Playing with him, changing his diaper, singing Twinkle Twinkle and Itsy Bitsy Spider–all this reminds me of my own grandmother, who helped me out with my kids when I needed a break.
Likewise, with Brad’s family over the Easter and Passover weekend, we spent six hours in various D.C. museums, where both my step-granddaughters surprised me with their concentration and knowledge. No one got bored–not even our nine-year-old–though we all had sore feet by the end. No one complained. On Easter, we frosted cupcakes and made a mess.
Is a grandmother’s role simply to love and then hand the child back to the parents when the going gets rough? Is that adage true? In my life, it has not been so. Though I had little role model for being a mother because my own was often downed by her illness, I did have one in how to be a Nana, as mine first sat with me and Joy on the floor, playing dolls, crayoning, singing, and then later giving permanent waves and manicures, long backrubs and the treat of special foods both my sister and I loved. She left me with a lot to live up to.
So I say thanks, Nana, for showing me how to be both a mother and then a Nana myself. For showing me how to tackle the most difficult things–like soothing a sobbing toddler who won’t let go of Mom’s arm as she makes her way out the door–as well as the most pleasurable–like putting him down to sleep with the lullaby that has been part of our nightly routine for years. My grandson’s father drifted off as he heard it, as did his uncle, as did my sister and I, and it symbolizes all the wonderful hand-me-downs that come with being a family. At sixty-five, I am moving onward, into another role with a new generation. What pleasure there is to be had.