Ah…grandchildren. Right about now, grandparents all over the world are sighing and smiling. Smiling and sighing and thinking in fond and loving terms of their little darlings. Their grandchildren! Such a joy! Yes, utter joy!
But—dare I even expose this thought? What about those times when they’re…a-hem (a little throat-clearing, here) when they’re…not?
They came over to our house, because Pappy was cooking his famous chicken-fried steak. They brought their blankets and armfuls of stuffed friends. “Why so much stuff?” I asked in somewhat wary apprehension. “Because,” they answered with breathless hugs. “We want it to feel like home.” Within minutes, it did. The sibling rivalries and roughhousing and bickerings and battlings began. Just like home.
They lived with us for three years and, well, I’ll just let you in on a little secret here: grandchildren are adorable in small doses. Three years, day in and day out can, shall we say in euphemistic terms, be less less than adorable. Now that they and their parents are living close enough for familial love to waft but far enough for breathable air to circulate, life has mellowed to a warm, breezy zephyr.
When they come over now, there is a special quality to the air. I want them here. They want to be here. They sense, in this small house, a home. They know it well. Its smells and tastes, its creaks and groans, its nooks and crannies. They know its limitations and its gifts.
No bedroom of one’s own.
A fold-out couch to sleep on.
Little room for toys.
Lots of good food to eat.
Someone to sew back on a stuffed bear’s torn ear.
Someone to read bedtime stories.
No adult expecting perfection.
We all need a role to play in life and, at this stage of mine, that role is grandmother. A character is what she does, which tells me I need to play this role right. So, in order to live a good and worthy story, I need to be a good and worthy grandmother.
Some of this, I know intuitively. And some of this I know because both of my grandmothers lived really good stories.
Edna Mae lived a short bike ride from our house. Fannie Pearl lived in the apartment above our garage.
Edna rolled up a blanket between us in the bed when I spent the night with her. (Too much rambunctious nighttime squirming, I suppose.)
Fannie, gazing down through her window on Mt. Olympus one day, caught my brother and I smoking cigarettes behind the woodpile. (I was, admittedly, only eight years old.)
Edna made grilled cheese sandwiches on wheat bread with cheddar cheese. Wheat bread? Cheddar Cheese? Yuck! What self-respecting Southerner does that?
Fannie forced me to watch the Billy Graham Crusade and As The World Turns with her. While I could never understand the thematic thread between the two programs, I did know that her beloved, fervent evangelist and her dysfunctional, fictional characters were what kept Earth on its axis.
Edna had more hats than a milliner. She had drawers full of gloves and nylons and pearls. She traveled the world, riding yaks and elephants and camels, living an exotic adventure that most women at that time could only envision in a mythical kingdom.
Fannie was born in Indian Territory and never learned to drive a car. She brought to her life’s scenes a passion for a worn leather Bible and the hand-sewn quilts she painstakingly stitched.
Edna Mae could not tolerate a sloppy sense of etiquette or bad table manners, but she would let me fall asleep in her comfy den chair, listening to Rossano Brazzi sing South Pacific love songs to Mitzi Gaynor.
Fannie Pearl terrorized any potential suitors who dared draw near to me, thus impoverishing my young love life, but she lavished me with the richness of snow ice cream, pulled taffy, and gooey cinnamon rolls.
From my grandmothers, I learned about simple pleasures of a life measured close to home, about rich cultural treasures found at the far reaches of the world, about Jesus and his promises in a New Earth to come, and about a love right here and right now that is short on trifling expectations and high on abundant hugs.
These are lessons I need to remember and put into practice in my daily life and in all of my relationships—
Less emphasis on Accomplishment. More emphasis on Love.
Short on trifling Expectations. High on abundant Hugs.