“IF you want to civilize a man, begin with his grandmother.” – Victor Hugo
So, one moment you’re just a mother—and before you can blink and think that you have escaped the ties of children, their troubles and their demands; you feel a little tug, and next moment, you’re past that certain age, and you’re ready for the scrap yard. Then comes along the grandchildren, handing back your youth in a fancy box and you’re starting all over again. You find yourself bound once more by the needs of your grandchildren and their love.
I thought I had forgotten how to hold a baby, but my arms remember. Gazing into the sweet, innocent face, just above the size of a hug — the grasping of tiny soft hands, like a kitten in the shelter of your clasp. Those gasps of astonishment and shrieks of pleasure, sighs of delight, lost long time ago after my four girls grew to women, are suddenly back.
Rocking a tiny bundle of joy who is a loving extension of you. It is called midlife ecstasy, and just like that, it is the evidence of love in its most uncomplicated and trustworthy state.
The moment a baby is born, a grandmother is born too. Suddenly, by no act of yours, you’ve become biologically related to a human being. It really seems quite crazy that your baby should be sitting with a baby, her own, on her lap. And then you realize, all that joy of becoming a mother was simply a prelude to the elation of becoming a grandmother.
One sweet Sunday, I cradled in my arms a seven pound, 15-ounce baby girl named Eliana Milaina, aged 26 hours and four minutes. I wrapped my granddaughter so tightly so that nothing else in this world could get at her.
How I prayed she could stay protected that way. Where there is love, there is usually a little granddaughter nearby. She is independence parading around in her mother’s shoes, slippers. Alluring in a bandana, dark glasses and yards of beads, who relishes in turning my daily routine topsy turvy with her ardor and curiosity. She is the biggest thrill, she whose laughter is like a concert of little bells, shattering the morning sun, a present joy a promise of the future.
Through the years, I’ve learned that there are 147 different ways to hold a baby, all of them right. Used to asking the questions by my trade, I found myself groping for words, through the years when confronted by questions that defied logic or whose answers required another question. 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, and now even older, she has the power to raise the spirit and expand my universe, with the mere twinkle of her eye.
Together we learned names of plants, every tree, every bird, and insect and oddities. We drew cats and dogs and fathers and mothers and flowers. Her acts of kindness were what my mother taught me. The eldest had become close a confidante and best friend—and like grown ups she has started asking questions that can be answered.
But a grandson, is a pint sized bolt of lightning. With such skinny eyes, w a bewitching creature sprinkled with stardust, heaven sent 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,” the captor who holds the key to her grandmother’s heart.
When I take him for a stroll he stops to talk to a dog or a cat, 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. Last New Year’s Day, he turned 13, in a blast of a birthday party where he gives me a chance to sing, play and dance.
So what is grandmothering all about? It may feel like a second chance to get parenting right but it is not. It is however, another chance to love and nurture a child, a relationship between one heart and another love—that kind that flows through connected spirits.
The years will go by and my grandchildren will be older. I will no longer be in demand to baby sit, read fairy tales, ride the merry-go-round, play their favorite piano pieces. Heavens, how I dread that day! But if I am lucky there will be another time, another place, another children. For someday, I’ll be a great grandmother!
E-mail Mylah at firstname.lastname@example.org