When talking to my granddaughters I refer to myself in the third person; “Grandma bought you new school outfits today, or Grandma is coming to visit you next week, or Grandma got tickets to Nutcracker this Christmas, etc. etc.” I don’t remember how this started, but it was unconscious and I think I’ve done it since the day they were born and I first held them and cooed in their tiny little ears “Grandma loves you soooooooooo much.” It’s not that I want to separate myself from this relatively new role in my life – as though I’m to young to be a GRANDMA, because I’m not and I relish the thought of what being a Grandma to a child can mean to them.
The idea of GRANDMA is iconic, powerful to me. My grandmother holds a much higher place in my memory lexicon than my own mother. And it was without any intention to do so on her part, she, just by her own goodness and love occupies a huge part of my brain and nearly all of the positive memories of my childhood are tied somehow, directly to her. I’ve written short essays about these experiences and I can turn them on like a home movie in my head when ever I feel the need to conjure her up. Although she’s been dead for over 20 years she still lives on in very sensual, tangible ways for me. Being aware of this key to immortality through the minds of your grandchildren has influenced how I relate to them. It also is an attempt to assuage some of the guilt I feel about not being the worlds best mother to my own daughter, who now happens to be the mother of the two darlings that are the objects of my attention.
The big difference however, is the fact that my granddaughters are lucky to have loving, affectionate, generally happy parents who are very in tune with their children, parents who have given their children valuable life experiences based on their own healthy intellectual curiosity and positive world view. My childhood on the other hand was clouded by a very dark home life, raised by parents whose own deeply troubled relationship impregnated the very air I breathed from the moment I was born. I remember the inside of our house, no matter where we lived, seemed airless, dead, like the atmosphere in a funeral home. It was depressing, loveless, underscored by fear. My mother was by nature a fearful person. My father seemed to be a source of great anxiety for both of us but I also loved him in spite of it. My mother seemed to be afraid to live and afraid to love. She was the iron maiden, stiff upper lip, emotionless, unless she was hiding. The hiding would happen during confrontations with my Dad. I refused to turn away from him, refused to accept his bad behavior, refused to believe that he didn’t love me. My mother was incapable of handling any emotionally or intellectually challenging situation. She often just disappeared, shut herself in her room, and that was the end of it as far as she was concerned.
As a result, both my grandparents filled a huge vacuum in my life that my own granddaughters don’t need to have filled. I simply adore them and I hope to have embedded myself in their pliable, developing brains so that when I am long gone they will identify thoughts of me with all things pleasurable and happy and exciting and above all with the knowledge that someone called Grandma, loved them.