My grandmother is 85 years old and, to my knowledge, never gone online. Ten or maybe 12 years ago my grandfather told my mom that they'd be getting a computer "soon." But now I think they've decided that they're going to let this technological innovation pass them by. So they make plane reservations by phone, use the Yellow Pages, subscribe to the daily newspaper, and conduct important business via fax. At their house, it's like being stuck in 1989.
But I think it's safe to say that they're starting to be in the minority among the senior set. Last year a friend and I started the website Postcards From Yo Momma, which publishes emails, IM conversations and text messages between mothers and their adult children; a book based on the site, Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages from Home (Hyperion) came out last month. The website and the book have become windows into not only how grandmothers (or "glam-mas," as the New York Times dubbed them recently) interact with their adult grandchildren, but also into the relationship between new grandmothers and their adult children--who have recently become parents themselves.
Some new grandmothers get upset when they perceive that their children aren't allowing them enough time with their grandchildren--especially if it's the first grandchild in the family. The tension that can arise was perfectly encapsulated by this new grandma:
I am glad baby did fine this morning. I am praying for her. No, we won't be coming over tonight. You have made it perfectly clear that you don't want us "horning" in on the week nights and that you don't like company on the weekends because that is your only time with her and that is when your friends come over. Our time with her will be on Fridays when I pick her up from the babysitters. Which dad still won't get much then. But we will honor your wishes. We will suffer from it and (baby) will too. But we will abide by what you say. Hope you have a good one.
But many grandmothers are also like this one, who was (perhaps overly?) concerned about making sure her grandson would be happy in her care:
What vegetables does he like? Baked Beans?,salad? stewed tom? fresh tomatoes, carrots, celery, Fruit; peaches and pears i know he likes; what others? Flavors ice cream? Meat? Hot dogs? Chinese food? Hamburgers and sloppy joes are all know. Chicken, turkey? chinese food? You roast your potato chunks at 425 degrees for how long? Beef or chicken gravy. Sliced ham? What for sandwiches other than PB?J. What goes in his lunch box?All of this you may already have covered in your notes to me but if not, these are my questions! Love ya Mom
Email also allows moms to communicate with their adult children about their own parents, and these emails allow moms to highlight the generation gap between themselves and their own parents. These moms seem to be explaining that they have more in common with their own children than they do with their parents, like this mom:
I'm living in backwards world! Mother has on thick winter socks, a jacket, & is under an afghan. Dad has on a wool jacket. It is 75 n house cuz I sneaked thermostat down 5 degrees! When I get old, u r gonna have 2 tell me shit straight up.
For their part, grandmothers use email to smooth the relationship between their children and grandchildren, like this grandma who emailed her granddaughter after Christmas:
[I]t saddens my heart that you and K. have, with a few exceptions, refused to help your mother around the house (specifically dishes!). After fixing a big meal for all of you, she is tired! She has not been well for years, yet no one pitches in to help her out. When does she get a break? The first thing you know, she won't be around to "do" for everyone, and at that point, I expect there will be a few regrets. Please do me a favor and help her out once in a while when you're home! You are never a "guest" in the home of your parents.
We were (pleasantly!) surprised to discover that some grandmothers still feel--well, horny. Or at least, able to joke about sex! Take this chat between a grandmother and her granddaughter:
Grandma: i really like that apron you got me for Christmas
Granddaughter: oh, yeah, no problem, I thought it'd be useful
Grandma: oh sure for when we're entertaining guests.....or if im just entertaining your grandfather
Granddaughter: um.....sounds great
Of course, one of the most prevalent themes in mother-child communication is the production of grandchildren. This mom may be a bit extreme, but it's highly likely that this is the email that many moms would, in fact, like to send:
I bought some baby clothes for you today.
I know you aren't pregnant, but I thought that maybe if I bought the clothes it would work in reverse...like I could will you to get knocked up.
Are you knocked up? Tell that husband of yours to get busy. I want you two sexing it up like rabbits.
PS: Your father is getting a vasectomy.
Happy Mother's Day!