“IF you want to civilize a man, begin with his grandmother.” – Victor Hugo 

One moment you’re a mother.  Then, when your children are finally all grown up, you relax and take it easy — having finally escaped their ties, their troubles and their demands. You’ve become wise and pre-historic and everything starts to sag and double past a certain age and you’re ready for the scrap yard.

But then along come the grandchildren and before you know it, they’ve handed back your youth in a fancy box and you’re starting all over again — finding yourself bound once more, this time by the needs of your grandkids and their love.

I thought I had forgotten to hold a baby, but my arms remembered.  I gazed into that sweet,innocent face (which is just about the size of a hug) and grasped those tiny, soft hands, so small and warm — like a kitten in the shelter of your clasp.

Those gasps of astonishment, shrieks of pleasure and sighs of delight (which disappeared a long time ago, after my four girls grew wise and worldly.)

Rocking a tiny bundle of joy, who is a loving extension of you, is called mid-life ecstasy. It is the evidence of love in its most uncomplicated and trustworthy state — a  blush-inducing love affair.

The moment a baby is born, a grandmother is born, too. Suddenly, by no act of yours, you become biologically related to a human being.

It really seems crazy to see that your child has her own baby sitting on her lap — like some sort of bonus.

You realize that the joy of being a mother was simply a prelude to the elation of becoming a grandmother.

One sweet Sunday, I stood cradling this 15-ounce baby girl named Eliana Milaina in my arms. My 26 hours and 4 minutes-old granddaughter was wrapped so tightly, it seemed that nothing else in the world could harm her. I prayed that she would stay protected  like that forever.

Where there is love, there is usually a little granddaughter nearby. She is independence, parading around in her mother’s shoes and slippers.  She is alluring in a bandana, dark glasses and yards of beads while turning my daily routine topsy-turvy with her ardor and curiosity.

She is the biggest thrill, whose laughter is like a concert of little bells.

Through the years, I’ve learned that there are 147 different ways to hold a baby — all of them right.

By trade, I am used to being asked questions — but when interrogated with puerile inquiries that defy logic, or whose answers require another question, I find myself groping for words.

Why is God not married? Did Jesus shave or did he go to a barbershop? Is the sun hot? Do flowers go to sleep?  Why is the sky blue? Does the Easter bunny lay eggs? Which cow gives chocolate milk? How do birds fly?

She is amusing and enchanting whether 3,6 or 13. Now that she’s older, she has the power to raise spirits — she can expand my universe, in the twinkle of an eye.

Together we learned names of plants, birds, insects and oddities.  We drew cats and dogs, fathers and mothers and flowers.  Her acts of kindness were what my mother taught me.

The eldest became my close confidante and best friend. And like a grown up, she has started asking questions that can be finally answered.

A grandson, on the other hand, is a pint-sized bolt of lightning — with skinny eyes, he has her wrapped around his finger. He is a bewitching creature sprinkled with stardust, heaven-sent and bathed in moonglow.

He is purity in dirty sneakers, chivalry on a carousel horse.

A quick study in perpetual motion, a magnificent little tyrant I call “Principeto,” he is the captor who holds the key to his grandmother’s heart.

When I take him for a stroll, he stops to talk to a dog or a cat or to look at butterflies.

When I am away, his mother lets him breathe on the phone — and in totally unexpected language, he is able to say he loves me.  This New Year’s Day, he turned 13, in a blast of a birthday party where he gave me a chance to sing, play and dance.

So what is grandmothering all about? It may feel like a second chance, but it is not a second chance to get parenting right. Rather, it is another chance to love and nurture a child — a relationship from one heart to another and a love between connected spirits.

The years will go by and my grandchildren will grow even older. I will no longer be in demand to babysit, read fairy tales, ride the merry-go-round or play their piano favorite pieces. Heavens, how I dread that day!

But if I am lucky, someday I may become a great grandmother!

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E-mail Mylah at moonlightingmdl@aol.com 

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