Let go of relating role to role, and open to connecting soul to soul. Sonia Choquette
My initial reaction to the phone call from Boulder, the call on a sunny Sunday in mid-October from our son, Pete, and daughter-in-law, Shelly, the call to both Cam and I on our home phone, was exhilaration. Who wouldn’t be excited?!? Who wouldn’t be thrilled with the news?!? And, so what if it was a secret, one that we were sworn to keep until the December holidays rolled around?!? We could cheer. We could jump up and down. We could start preparing. Shelly and Pete were going to have a baby! And Cam and I were going to be grandparents! A little one was entering our lives, someone to pour our love into unconditionally.
My busy mind began to work overtime. In the middle of the next night, I woke up with my head filled with ideas. We could create a playroom in the basement, put up book shelves for all those wonderful children’s stories we’ve saved; we could buy a tumbling mat and a set of wooden blocks and a crib for the guest room. And then my active middle-of-the-night-mind began to roam. Grandmother! What does that even mean?!? Panic began to set in. How can we be grandparents when we feel as though we’re twenty-two?!? How can we be grandparents when we just have begun to taste the freedom of not giving a rip what other people think?!? How can we be grandparents when we love to chase the Tour de France more than life itself and a baby, our little grandbaby who we already love unconditionally, might be born right in the middle of the action?!?
And what about my dreams?!? That’s where my mind went next on that October night. Is it appropriate for a grandmother to admit that she longs to play in a punk band, one that won’t care that she’s tone-deaf, one that will let her jump up and down on a stage and shriek her tone-deaf songs out into the world and head-bang her bleached-blonde hair wildly?!? Is it appropriate for a grandmother to even have bleached-blonde hair?!? And what about swearing?!? I was sure that swearing was off grandmother-limits, and something inside me loves to swear! And something inside me loves to be the center of attention, loves to be on stage, and that just can’t be grandmother material. By now, my mind had stuffed me back into a box, a grandmother box, a caring-what-other-people-think box. By now, I wasn’t so sure that grandmotherhood was all that it was cracked up to be.
Thank goodness for the bright light of the next morning! Thank goodness for a mind that is easy to pull back from a not-feeling-good place. Thank goodness for a sunny afternoon and a walk in the golden aspen woods of autumn. As I trudged along the trail, I began to think about grandmothers, the grandmothers who have been present in my life. I thought about Grandma Helen, my mother’s mother, who looked like a grandmother was supposed to look, with her thick ankles and sensible shoes. When she and Grandpa came to visit us in Maine, she would let me snuggle in next to her as she knit tiny dresses for my bendable Barbie. And, in the mornings, she would let my sister and I visit as she got herself ready for the day. We watched as she pulled on layers of silk under-things and brushed and braided her long graying hair and puffed herself with a powder that smelled comforting and pretty to our little girl noses. I could never be a Grandma Helen like my Grandma Helen. She was quiet and patient and sweet like the candy she brought us from Putnam Pantry.
Nor could I be like my Grammie Emma, my father’s mother. Grammie Emma lived in California until she became so forgetful that she couldn’t live alone and then she lived with us in Maine. Grammie Emma was tall and regal and wore wool suits and clip-on earrings. Wool is scratchy and clip-on earrings hurt my ears, and, by the time, that we knew Grammie Emma, she was scratchy, too, not cuddly like Grandma Helen. But I’ve taken to heart a story that my father shared about his mother, how, when she ran the summer camp on our property on the coast, she would stand up before the campers each night as they prepared to eat their evening meal, and, in a loud, bellowy voice, would yell out, “Is everybody happy?!?” Maybe my refined forgetful Grammie Emma had a little of the punk rocker in her after all!
And I thought about the other grandmothers in my life. Years after Grandma Helen and Grammie Emma had died, I inherited three more grandmothers. I was nineteen that first May when I visited Cam’s family home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and, there they were, all three of them, present and eager and ready to take in this girl from rural Maine. There was Grandma Remien, Cam’s father’s mother who grew up in Atlantic, Iowa and was buxom and wore brooches and created the best peach pies you’ve ever tasted, and said, over and over again, “Oh honey.” And there was Grams, who just happened to be visiting that weekend, too, Grams, who was Cam’s mother’s mother, and was pretty and stylish and shared stories with me at night when we lay in the guest room beds. She and Cros, Cam’s mother’s stepfather had traveled the world, had lived in Cuba and Portugal. She was exotic, an adventurer. And Grandma Hadley was the bonus grandmother, the stepgrandmother who Cam had known his whole life. Grandma Hadley was tiny and bird-like and quick-witted and told off-color jokes. I loved my new batch of grandmothers!
And I thought about our boys’ grandmothers, my mother, their Grandma Annie, and Cam’s mother, their “Regular” Grandma. Each July, for five or six years, the boys and I would drive east to Maine and I would drop them off at Camp Chewonki for a month of summer fun in the mountains and coast of Maine, and, on either side of their camp stay, we would spend a few days at the cottage with their Grandma Annie. She would swim with the boys in the cove and prepare lobsters for supper, and one night she let the boys eat a whole rhubarb pie. And, before leaving one year, I requested a photo, and, as I focused in on Grandma Annie with her arms wrapped around both boys, she piped up, “Say shit!” And the shocked and delighted boys yelled it out. “Shit!” they cried as I snapped the happiest photo of the three of them ever! And “Regular” Grandma, who is now just Grandma to the adult boys has been an ever-present force in their lives; from the card games and fishing adventures of their youth to the movies and dinners and hikes of their grown-up years, she is their buddy. I have heard them both say it, that Grandma is not just a grandma; she’s a good friend. Their grandma, like my Grandma Helen, does knit sweaters but she doesn’t have swollen ankles and she certainly doesn’t wear old lady shoes and she plays tennis and dances at zumba and wears hip glasses and loves bridge and teaches English to her Sudanese friend.
Oh my goodness, all these grandmothers, all these wonderful women. I love them all! I’ve been loved by them all! I thought this as I traipsed through the woods, the day after I found out that I was about to join the tribe of grandmothers. I don’t have to be different, I thought. I just have to be me! What could be better than that, to live from the feeling good inside place, sometimes punk rocker, sometimes centered yogini, and, from this living-from-the-inside place to love this precious grandchild with all my might. I’ve heard intuitive and workshop leader, Sonia Choquette, say it many times, “forget about the roles; just relate soul to soul”. And that’s what I intend to do.