I love being a grandmother to my five – well, maybe a few more, depending on how you count – grandchildren.
Two of my granddaughters live a few blocks away from me in Fredericksburg. One grandson lives in Yorktown, another in Blacksburg. My youngest granddaughter lives in Abu Dhabi, wherever that is. I also have a step-granddaughter who considers me her grandmother; she is a freshman at Goucher College. And my late husband had two more grandchildren for whom I sort of functioned as grandparent, and they each now have children. So I am sort-of great-grandmother to three little ones. That’s why I say, it depends on how you count. But if you count love, there’s always plenty of that to go around. I am Nanny to all of them. And my partner has two grandchildren as well, though his are about grown.
I grew up in an abusive home – difficult enough that both my sister and I are now licensed therapists – and the saving grace was my wonderful Nanny, my maternal grandmother. My nanny taught me to sit still in church by bribing me with peppermints, to fry an egg, and to grow a garden. To be perfectly honest, I don’t do any of those things very well to this day but I hope I am the person Nanny envisioned.
My memories include going around her yard cutting what I called “weed salad”, the mixed greens that I now pay a premium for in the supermarket. I can remember her saying when I misbehaved, “Claire Ann, are we gonna have to go cut a switch from the peach tree?” I don’t remember ever being spanked by her, peach tree switch or not, but I do remember straightening up when I heard those words. Or when I was called by both my first and middle names. She was my loving rock, my stability in an unstable world. I am functional today because of her.
My Grampy, Nanny’s husband, was my best friend and hero. We collected marbles and pressed them into the wet cement of a bird-bath we constructed. He was the janitor at my school and sometimes slipped me out to the diner nearby at lunchtime for a treat. He taught me to catch a fish, though not to like how it felt it my hand. He took me to the movies occasionally and to the library weekly.
I had another grandmother and grandfather but they lived in Boston, sounded funny to a Midwestern child when they talked, and didn’t come to see us often. They didn’t fish, bake, or cut weed salad, much less grow a garden. But they did buy me ice skates and books, neither of which was available in stores in the small Missouri town where we lived.
I also had great-grandparents. The ones nearby lived on a farm and I still have on my shelf an oil lamp I used to read by on visits to their un-electrified home. My two great-grandmothers in Boston spoke only Gaelic and one had a mustache on her fierce upper lip so our interchanges were infrequent, incomprehensible and a little bit scary.
So – I was very well-schooled to become a grandparent. I had far better role models for that than to be a parent. I suspect I am a better grandmother than I was a mother, though thankfully my children don’t tell me that.
I welcome the chance to share my thoughts and experiences with you in the coming posts, such as the Mysterious Case of the Missing…, You Told Your Teacher I’d Do What?? Who Do You Love Best, Nanny? Balancing Parenting and Grandma-ing; Just One More ___, Ple-e-e-ze, Grandma? and other such topics. Let’s make this blog a dialogue where we will share ideas, concerns, joys and stories.