Since moving away from North Carolina when our oldest child was an infant, we have lived in Oklahoma for five-ish years, Iowa for two and have fallen in love with Montana for the last almost seven years. I feel old.
And though we have met many amazing friends that are like family, we occasionally realize that we live really, really far from the people who share designer genes with us. The people who know how weird and awkward we truly are.
I worry that having grandparents hundreds and thousands of miles away, only to be seen a few times a year (hundreds) or biennial (thousands) that they may never get beyond a polite and thin relationship. Since one of my grandfathers passed away when I was quite young and the other was distant in more ways than one, I worry that our children won’t have the myriad of stories I have that knitted my heart with my grandmothers’.
When my kids do get to see their grandparents, it is so enjoyable. I love how they interact and love my children in a completely different way than I do. I love how they get them things that I can’t afford and more attention than I can. We do try to converse over the telephone but sometimes I wish there was a filter to screen out these true yet painful life examples that I’ve heard them freely and without prompting tell grandparents:
- We lost _______ at the pool today! (pause) Uh-huh. (pause) Yeah, she was in the bathroom. (pause) She was naked with a twisted bathing suit. (pause) No, Mommy didn’t know.
- My shoes have holes in them.
- ______ ate this dirty, hairy bouncy ball that was found under the oven today. (pause) No, he didn’t swallow it. (pause) Yes, Mommy got it out.
- We had cereal for dinner.
- Mommy left a poopy diaper on a vent and the whole house smelled like diarrhea.
These are the moments (among many) when I wonder why I don’t have my own reality show. I think we could make America “real” again, one poopy diaper at a time.
When I look back on my childhood, I recognize that my grandmothers were distinctly opposite in temperament and life experience. My northern Nan was artistic, creative and painted her kitchen ceiling red on a whim. She was opinionated, slightly cursed like a sailor, introduced me to “The Young and the Restless” and hailed from Cape Cod.
She was a nurse’s aide and told humbling, amazing and hysterical stories of helping “old people”. To her children she was sometimes difficult and abrasive but to me she was fun, unpredictable and a little naughty—I loved being with her.
My Southern Gramma could nowadays be featured on an episode of “Hoarders” but as a child I thought it was so incredibly useful that she had an entire closet dedicated to paper bags, covered the top surface of her refrigerator with stacks and stacks of egg cartons and always had rubber bands on hand since they took up an entire door knob in her kitchen.
When I was younger we would take turns staying with her for a week in the summer. Daily we would walk down her long winding driveway (sometimes eating scuppernong grapes fresh from the vine) to check the mail with baseball caps on our heads because she hated when Japanese beetles would land in her hair.
Sometimes we’d visit her friends with classic names like Eloise and Ms. Ida Mae. They’d give me lemon drops and encourage me to keep working on my cross stitch. I’d sit and suck on the bittersweet candy, listen to them gossip and let my toes play in the plush, pink carpet.
Her family sent her to college during the Depression and she repaid the favor by teaching children for most of her life. She was meticulous in bookkeeping and hand typed the yearly cookbook for Fletcher’s Chapel United Methodist church. I still have a dog-eared copy that contains recipes from all the Ida Mays including ones for Persimmon Pudding and Cherry Yum-Yum.
Whenever I find myself missing these women, I make my grandmother’s pie crust, tell a hysterical story from their life or wonder aloud how they managed to create so many things and touch so many people in their lifetimes.
A part of them is with me in how I create a home for my family, whether I duplicate or consciously choose to do it differently—both are a gift.
As I squarely sanction the fact that I’m undeniably middle-aged, I realize that I’m slightly irreverent and artsy like my Nan and I love to serve and visit friends like my Gramma. I have bits of them in my heart, personality and temperament and since our modus operandi of living away from family most likely won’t change any time soon, I hope that my children will create deep and lasting bonds with their grandparents even if the visits are infrequent. If nothing else, I hope our parents are writing all this great material down for me to use in my upcoming television show, “The Old and the Exhausted.”