To explain the reason I haven't blogged in more than quite a while is unimportant. I'm just going to begin again -- a luxury that we all dream about in many situations and only works when making a film. That said, here I go. Take Two.
When my only daughter and middle child, Ellie, met her husband, she was 21 and he was 27. She was just two months shy of her college graduation and I had just bought a beautiful lavender duvet cover for her homecoming. But this child, who was always glued to my hip, stayed behind with Larry. Four years later, in November 2010, Ellie and Larry were married in what was the wedding of their dreams in their sweet New England town that looks like an Edward Hopper painting. And then this past November 22nd, Thanksgiving Day, at 1:01 a.m., Ellie gave birth to their baby boy named Oliver. It's the stuff that makes a fairytale. Oliver tipped the scale at a surprising 8 pounds 2 ounces (Ellie carried so small, we were certain that he would be a little one). But still, he was half the size of the turkey back at Ellie and Larry's house that had to wait until Saturday when the new family came home. The midwife popped a knitted "turkey" hat on Oliver's head, fashioned with knitted "feathers" (made by one of the volunteers) since he won the contest for the first-born Thanksgiving Day baby. As planned, my husband and sons had driven up the night before Thanksgiving and about an hour after Oliver's arrival, they came into Ellie's birthing room and met him with awe. It was, indeed, a special Thanksgiving. And even though Oliver is Ellie and Larry's baby, he is what the rest of us in this family call "our baby." We are all in love.
I went to Ellie and Larry's town in Massachusetts about ten days before Oliver was born and hunkered down in a one-bedroom "apartment suite" at the local Quality Inn. I was on a mission to be there for my daughter and son-in-law during the days before Oliver's birth and then to see them through the week after. I was visible when necessary and invisible when they needed space (and when I did). My suite was spare -- the requisite mismatched Corelle dishes and tinny flatware, a toaster, two dinged-up pots in the galley kitchen and tired furniture throughout. But there was the added perk of a gas fireplace where I curled up in the evenings with green tea. I was "on-call," so no evening glass of wine while I waited for Ellie's labor to begin. And as I sat by the fire, I thought mostly about impending grandmotherhood and the "circle of life" that was hitting me like a thunderbolt. If the truth be told, I over-thought, as is my tendency.
I was having a tough time with impending grandmotherhood. I didn't understand friends and acquaintances (the seasoned grandmothers) who asked if I wasn't "just so excited" about the prospect of becoming a grandmother. My answer was always, "not quite yet" which led them to assuring me that I would change my tune once the baby was born.
Just you wait, they said. You'll see. Being a grandmother is the best thing in the world. But my response was always, Why? Honestly, I felt like a freak of nature: Was I supposed to feel a thrill that I wasn't feeling? Was I suffering from some sort of grandma frigidity? I joked with them that I still wasn't over motherhood, but they didn't think that was funny. When I explained that becoming a grandmother was a major life change, that I couldn't get excited until my daughter was through the birth and there was a healthy baby, they l looked at me with a mixture of pity, confusion and disdain. As the gestational period went on and my excitement still wasn't up to their standards, I felt angry and misunderstood. For me, becoming a grandmother felt like a greater transition than motherhood was. Motherhood held promise, youth and fertility. Becoming a grandmother reeked of age. My oldest son got it perfectly after finding out that his sister was pregnant, "Wow, Mom, so you're going to be a grandmother," he said. "That's great, but, man, that must feel kind of f***ed up, right?"
Exactly. It's great-but-wait-a-minute.
In that moment when Oliver emerged, knowing that my daughter and her baby were both fine was my prevailing emotion. I wondered if my sigh of relief was audible. In that synapse, there was also the irrefutable truth that my daughter was now a mother and, yes, I was a grandmother. How was that possible? My grandmother wore sensible Red Cross shoes and cream-colored chiffon blouses over tailored beige trousers. I loved to nuzzle into the Emeraude-scented softness of her gray mink coat. She took me to Broadway shows when I was old enough and when I was small, she sent me organza party dresses. She and my grandfather stayed with my brother and me one summer when my parents went off to Europe for a month. She bought me a "bride doll," tons of books and introduced me to Prokofiev. I wear blue jeans and cowboy boots. Maybe one day, Oliver will remember that his grandma smelled of Angel perfume and how he loved to tug on her dangly earrings. And when he hears The Pussycat Dolls, he'll think of me since I play "Don't Cha" to get him to sleep. And yes, when he's older, maybe I'll take him to Broadway shows and Peter and the Wolf will definitely be on the agenda.
Am I grandma material?
My grandmother friends can't wait to "take" their grandchildren on either the nanny's day off or just a random Saturday. For me, I love the days when we are all together and Oliver is the center of attention as we watch him do nothing and yet we are amazed. Ellie jokes that had she known her brothers would have paid her this much attention as they have since Oliver's birth, she would have had a baby when she was in high school. I love to hold him, to change his diaper, and do the loads of laundry that Ellie would otherwise do just to give her a break in what is the endless routine of a newborn.
In particular, I love when Ellie and I are with Oliver "alone." I watch this beautiful young woman, my child still, who asked when she was a little girl if I would "have the babies for her" when she grows up. Of course, I said that I would. I watch my daughter: a mother so capable, so caring, so in love with this child. This is the way in which I am a grandmother -- passing the torch to Ellie who is now the keeper of the flame.