My grandmothers did a lot of lovely things for me. Both were fine cooks, specializing in all my favorite foods, cornbread and biscuits and cobblers. Both read to me, sang with me, and told me hair-raising tales. One made a doll for me that I still treasure. The other taught me how to cheat at cards.
But what they did best was simple: They both seemed to like having me around. For me, that was enough.
I often wonder what my grandchildren will remember about me? I’m not a great cook. I don’t sew. And I’m never much good at cards, even if I cheat.
But if they remember nothing else, I hope they won’t forget how much I love having them around, laughing, telling stories, reading or just being together.
One of the hardest things for me in the past four months of this pandemic is all the time I’ve missed spending with people I love, all the laughs we haven’t shared, all the meals we haven’t eaten, all the memories we haven’t made together.
That’s especially true for my grandchildren. Childhood is a sacred door, open only for a while. The bond between a child and a grandparent—like mine with my grandmothers—can be strong enough to last forever. But it needs to be forged early, while the door is still open.
Lucky for me, I have modern miracles that my grandmothers never dreamed of—videos, emails, texts and Facetime–to keep in touch with my kids and grandkids. Communicating electronically is a far cry from holding each other close. One is real. The other is a substitute until the real thing comes along.
We take turns calling, texting and sending videos. Content doesn’t matter as much as seeing faces and hearing voices. Connecting is what truly counts.
Sometimes I read to the little people, or they read to me. Randy, my oldest grandchild, who’s almost 10, FaceTimed recently to say he had a “special book” he wanted to share with me: “Life,” by Cynthia Rylant.
I gave him that book a few years ago. He knows it’s one of my favorites, both for Rylant’s beautiful writing and Brendan Wenzel’s perfect illustrations.
“I’d love to hear you read it,” I said. And so, he began:
“’Life begins small. Even for the elephants. Then it grows…’”
He read every word of it with great expression, stopping at times to turn the book around to let me see the illustrations. When he finished, we took a moment to savor together the joy of a good book well read.
He said he also read it to his brother and sister and they loved it, too. Elle is 5. Wiley is 7. Elle liked the baby elephant. Wiley liked the snake in the grass.
“What’s your favorite part of the book?” I said.
He thought about it, then nodded. “Remember how it says, ‘Life is not always easy,’ then it shows a wilderness?”
“Yes,” I said, “I remember.”
“Well, after the wilderness, it shows a sunny day and it says ….” Opening the book, he turned to find the page, then read once again: “‘But wilderness eventually ends. And there is always a new road to take.’”
Closing the book, he smiled. “The sunny day,” he said, “that’s my favorite part.”
“Mine, too,” I said, laughing, “but why do you like it?”
His smile faded, making him look somehow older, and I saw in his sweet face a tender boy who is wise beyond his years.
“I like it, Nana, because sometimes, you know, we get kind of…sad? And it helps to know there’s sunny days ahead.”
I pictured my grandmothers smiling down on us from above. I think they’d like Randy a lot.
In the wilderness of this pandemic, when the dark road seems never to end, I look into the eyes of my loved ones and see the light of a sunny day.
I hope you can see it, too.
Best of Sharon Randall
Check out some of the most-read recent columns from Sharon Randall:
I’m sitting in room full of strangers, whose feelings at the moment (based on the looks on their faces as they stare at their cell phones) ran…
I’ve had some embarrassingly bad ideas in my time. More than my share. But lately I’ve been on a roll with good ideas that just keep getting better.
I have a lover’s quarrel with Halloween. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. Which, come to think of it, is also how I feel a…
Dear Readers: I’m taking this week off to recover from Thanksgiving. I hope you are recovering, too. The following column is from February 2004.
It’s about to get crazy in here. That’s what my grandson Wiley used to say when the monster truck video he was watching kicked into high gear.
Why do some thoughts just seem to show up out of nowhere and keep you thinking about them for days?
What’s your dream? Lately I’ve been working like a house on fire, trying to finish something I started years ago.
Sharon Randall is a syndicated columnist based in Monterey County, California.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!