One evening recently, I found myself sitting on the closed toilet seat in my daughter, Violet's apartment holding my 8-week old granddaughter, Plum Lillian. Violet was in another room working on her soon-to-be published book, her husband David, the Artistic Director of the Hamptons Film Festival, was off at a screening and I was in a bathroom no larger than a broom closet, with the bathtub running, trying to soothe my cranky granddaughter. Nothing about this scene struck me as unusual. I'd been sitting on toilet seats soothing cranky babies for 36 years, ever since Violet's older sister Ruby was born in 1977. My own experience of having been born two months prematurely and spending the first ten weeks of my life in an incubator practically devoid of human touch, only to come home from the hospital to parents who were too scared to hold me, most definitely informed the way I parented. My girls were going to feel my touch, my presence, my love, know that I would never be scared of anything!
My relationship with my daughter Ruby has been anything but ordinary since she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident when she was 18. During the months of rehabilitation after being in a coma for weeks, Ruby had to learn to walk and talk all over again. Now, 18 years later, she is an amazing mother to my grandchildren, Seamus five and a half and Oona two and a half. She is my miracle child. We have become the fabric of each other's lives. I have been her part-time babysitter, cook, personal organizer and companion.
Now that I've decided to babysit for Plum three full days a week when Violet goes back to work in a month (and she didn't even have to ask), most of my friends are quite dumbfounded. Violet and David can well-afford a babysitter, they say, why would you take on such a physically and emotionally demanding job when you don't have to. But I do have to, need to, could not imagine it any other way. Isn't it a parent's job, from the moment of their child's birth to their own death, to make their child's life easier? And having been a single parent since my daughters were 3 and 5, run my own Hell's Kitchen bakery, I still had a few child-rearing, housekeeping, cooking tricks up my sleeve that I wanted to share. The way I see it, my biggest challenge will be balancing my dual "jobs!" #1 train to Violet, #4 bus to Ruby. But what if both girls need me at the same time? Oy vey! I don't even want to think about it!
But don't get me wrong, when I come home from Ruby's after a day of putting Ruby's apartment in order, playing with Seamus and Oona, cooking a kid-friendly turkey meatloaf (recipe follows) or an evening of trying to soothe Plum and at the same time make red quinoa with pistachios(recipe follows), I'm utterly exhausted, can't put-a-sentence-together exhausted. But I wouldn't trade my life with anybody else's. My grandchildren are my blood, my legacy; it is the role I was born for.
Turkey Meatloaf: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together 2 lbs. ground turkey meat, ½ cup panko bread crumbs, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1 cup tomato salsa (any brand), ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste. Form into loaf. Spread 1 cup ketchup over top of meatloaf and bake for 1 hour. Note: I'm a big fan of leftovers, so if you have cooked sausage, vegetables, rice, add to meatloaf mixture and proceed.
Red Quinoa with Pistachios: 2 tblsp. Olive oil, 2 shallots finely chopped, 2 cups red quinoa rinsed, 3 cups chicken broth, ½ cup unsalted pistachios chopped, 6 tblsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley, 2 tblsp. chopped fresh mint. Heat oil in saucepan. Add shallot, season with salt & pepper and cook stirring until soft. Add quinoa, stirring frequently until quinoa starts to toast and smell nutty. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover saucepan, lower heat and simmer gently until quinoa is tender, about 30 minutes. Add pistachios, parsley & mint. Season with salt & pepper.
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