I’m not a baby person, a particularly patient person or a person who knits. I haven’t baked cookies in a hundred years and my heart is so full worrying about, encouraging, praying for and loving the people already in my world, that I’m not sure there’s room for one more. But a few months ago I was blindsided. The breath, the skin, the yawn, the toes… ohmigod the miracle. My daughter had a daughter.
Uncomfortable with the hype surrounding this new role — and to be honest — not sure I was selfless enough to be good at it, I wasn’t ready to carry around that Kate Spade red envelope full of photos in my bag. Overwhelmed by what I observed… my friends charting every fanny burp and bowel movement, the strategy involved in snapping, clipping, strapping and harnessing a baby into a car seat, the different baby gurus who preached a different sermon from the one I believed to be the “right” one, I worried that maybe I was born with a limited supply of unconditional love.
My grandma’s house smelled worn but safe and the fragrance of latkes and rugalach had baked themselves into the furniture. She asked little of life and with her knotted stockings, fleshy upper arms, and candy dishes full of Hershey’s chocolate; she was a real grandma. She always stayed at home and her devoted family visited weekly, and although I can’t recall any confidences I shared with her, I know I grew stronger basking in her adoration.
My mother belonged to the first generation of grandmas dressed in warm ups and sneakers. She sewed name tapes for camp, and was constantly amazed with how absolutely brilliant her granddaughters were. Her eyes shone as they walked through her door and nothing made her happier than preparing her specialty, kasha varnishkas, for them. She and her friends were definitely missed when all boarded what seemed to be the same plane for Florida.
If I aspire to be a loving grandma, will I still have time to go to the gym…and finish my book… and take care of my father? Will I baby-sit because I want to… can I still comfort a fretful infant…am I relaxed enough to enjoy four hours of Dora the Explorer? Sigh.
Yes. I’ve learned it’s mothers who are tense, matter of fact and over the top… not grandmothers. I don’t have to be Hannah’s teacher, just her audience. A decade older than my mother and my grandmother were when they had their first grandchild, I realize I know things. I have the opportunity the second time around not to be in such a hurry to get onto the next thing. I can treasure the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. I am kinder and more appreciative than I ever was with my babies. I can back off and let Hannah be… and know that’s the right thing to do. Suddenly all those years of practice kick in, replacing my fears. I can do this.
Someone once said that grandmas are moms with lots of frosting. When I see how much my daughter loves her daughter, I can’t help thinking she must have learned that from me. Watching the two of them, I am touched by every generation before me and filled with a sense of belonging. From this day on, no matter how small my handbag, I will carry Hannah’s picture. I will never pass a store without thinking of her. I will constantly anticipate our next play date. And I will ponder how she will remember the smell of my home.