In the past few days, my thoughts of grandchildren have been more frequent than usual. No, nobody I know is expecting, and keeping an open mind, I would never count on matters that are not my choice. So, unsure of what has triggered this stream of thought, I decided to do what a writer does. Write.
After two children, my husband and I figured that was all the busy life of two doctors would allow. I gave away the nursery furniture and focused on enjoying my share of motherhood, recording precious moments, and saving little memorabilia. But when Lilly was nine, Cyrus came to our life – both as a surprise and a blessing. I suddenly realized how much I had missed having an infant, and took pleasure in furnishing a brand new nursery.
Babies are like butterflies, they’re there one moment and the next, you wonder if you had imagined such magical beauty! There is pure sorrow in baby tears, yet within minutes, their toothless smiles can light up your whole world. But most of all, what chains your feet to home is their eyes begging you to stay, and the tiny fingers that cling to your heart. “Don’t leave me, Mommy,” is the silent plea that stays with you, even years after they’ve grown up and left home.
I enjoyed my son’s babyhood and told everyone I planned to treat him as my grandchild. Indeed, had I lived in another time, I could have been a young grandma. Looking back, I now realize that I have lived my life finding some form of substitute for missing loved ones: My older brother became father, a best friend’s mother was Mamman, and for the past few years, I’ve enjoyed others’ grandchildren, not to mention treasuring my beloved Harper as she affectionately calls me Grandma Zoe. Friends and family continue to share their grandchildren and I love them for it. What makes the third generation so fascinating? Could it be that grandchildren fill a particular gap?
When our babies grow up, their “I need you,” changes to “I can manage,” a message of independence that parents both love and resent. Proud as we may be of who they have become, we miss the tiny fingers around our thumbs, the lost look in their eyes as we prepared to go, and the wordless cry that said, “Don’t leave me!”
I listen to all the grandma stories, and while pride oozes out of every word, a profound message of need can also be heard. “She only calms down when I hold her,” or “He loves my cooking,” and best of all “He/she reminds me of when my son/daughter was a baby. You should see the pictures, the resemblance is unbelievable!”
And there lies the secret to the unique joy called grandparenthood! In a life that allows no U-turn, grandchildren succeed to take us back to a time and place we had given up for lost. They help us to rebuild the nursery, where we can once again sing a lullaby, be greeted with the toothless smile, and feel needed. Once again we melt with the tight grip of tiny fingers, and looking in their bright eyes, we don’t need words to hear them say, “Don’t leave!”