Grandmothers Used to Be Old

Both of my grandmothers always had white hair. They both always wore sensible shoes. They both always smelled like soft, spring flowers and sat quietly in straight backed chairs. A generation later, when my mother (who had bleached hair and wore high heels and lots of make-up) came to visit, the neighborhood kids didn’t believe my children when they said that, yes, she was their grandmother. Now, I am a raucous, adventurous granny. I think, as a subset of parents, we grandmothers just keep getting younger.

I work out five days a week. Got to keep in shape to chase, hoist and cuddle those giggling, squirmy babies. I try (usually) to eat a moderate, healthy diet. Can’t have sugar swings and fall asleep on the couch when it’s time to go to the park. My grandchildren hardly ever see me in dressy clothes. What fun would it be if I couldn’t color and build and roll around on the floor with them?

This month I turn 65. In anticipation of that momentous occasion, I attended a Medicare seminar. The room was filled with “old people.” I felt out-of-place (though I suspect that I actually fit right in). Sixty-five used to be so old. I’m not old! I’m a grandmother and that requires energy galore.

Thank you, James and Dellie and Leo and Kate for the 65th birthday present of youth and delight!

What's Your Kind of Valentine?

I wrote myself a reminder for the February blog post. It says only “treacly Valentine.” What did I mean? Are sweet cards too warm and fuzzy? Should Valentines be tart and sarcastic? Exactly what was this cryptic message supposed to prompt me to write?

I know for sure that I do not like over sentimentality. That may come as a surprise to my family as they’ve watched me tear up at sappy commercials for years. Yup, thirty seconds of schmaltz can have me lunging for the tissues. But, too much sugar and spice often hide the real feelings behind relationships.

I like my romance sprinkled with a healthy dose of teasing – not quite cynicism but certainly good natured banter. I like my books and characters that way, too. But, tongue-in-cheek is not for everyone. Some people can dish it out but not take it. Others would prefer no mocking at all.

This February, I wish you romance in whatever form you find it. Share your particular brand of love with your family, with your friends, with all those grand babies. There can never be too much tenderness and true affection in the world. Happy Valentine’s Day from Slow Tag Press to all of you!

A New Year with No Mistakes in It

Books provide infinite delights – adventure, romance, distraction from the mundane or the upsetting. They expand our cultural, geographical, emotional horizons. They offer hope and, sometimes, despair. Books are central to discussions with your grandchildren as well as with your book group. They let you see what you can be and what you already are.

I write and publish children’s books. Just because this is a genre focused on young readers doesn’t make it any less valuable for all the reasons listed above. Every dedicated reader has at least one childhood or young adult title in her list of favorites. And, most of us go back to those old friends again and again over the years. Sometimes we revisit them for comfort, sometimes for inspiration.

In this new year, I am reminded of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. My mantra for 2019 will be “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.” Every morning is a fresh chance to meet challenges and forgive errors (yours and others’). I will wake up each day knowing that I have another opportunity to be my best self.

And, my best self will keep reading. Your best self should, too.

Dear Amazon

Dear Santa,

This year I have been really, really good. I have done my chores, studied for most of my spelling tests and even been nice to my little brother. I hope that means you have a bunch of toys for me.

My dad helped me go online to choose exactly what I want. You can go to Amazon.com to see my wish list. I picked colors and stock code numbers to help you out. Don’t worry if the elves are running late. My parents have a Prime membership so you can log on at the last minute and still get these to me by Christmas morning. I see Amazon vans on our street all the time, But, I’ve never seen an Amazon sled pulled by reindeer (or by dogs). Even Amazon might have a hard time delivering to the North Pole. So, maybe you’d better just send the toys to me directly. I know you have a lot to do this time of year, so I hope this helps you out. 

Please wish Mrs. Claus a happy holiday from me.

Love, your friend and Amazon member Herbert

P.S. My mom and I ordered these cookies from Amazon, too.

Family Homes

Thanksgiving kicks off the “family season” and I love it!

All my grandkids (and their parents, of course) are under one roof – mine! There is noise, new aromas (some of the less pleasant ones emanating from the infants), new and old traditions. This is the time of year when anyone who arrived in the past 12 months makes his or her family debut.

But, this will be the first year in a while without four generations. We have new grandchildren to introduce but are missing my father-in-law. He will be a topic of conversation, of funny memories and old photos. Should I still serve pumpkin pie in his honor? He was the only one who really enjoyed it. Is it a sacrosanct tradition or should we start making new ones? Maybe we can do both.

We eat our holiday dinners in rooms filled with old family photos. On our walls, there are 100 framed pictures in black and white and sepia going back more than a century. Each season, we look at them with new stories and new reverence. We never really miss our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents because they’re right there with us.

Family is central to our celebrations. I am thankful that this year, we have two new people to initiate into the fold.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Singing along to the car radio is often a very, very creative experience. I sing what I hear (which is not always what the songwriter wrote). Years later, I suddenly hear the proper lyrics and realize how much more sense they make then what I’ve been belting out.

Kids learn to sing the same way, just by listening. They can be loud or whispery. They can be dramatic or hide behind you as they sing. But, sing they do because so much of childhood is brought to us with a musical accompaniment.

My cousin used to think that “My Country Tis of Thee” had a line that read “Land where the Pilgrims fried.” Yummy!! My granddaughter sings “Twinkle Twinkle” in a language only she can understand. My grandson watches his dad and sings one beat behind, trying to mimic the words.

I sing a Yiddish lullaby to my newest grandson. I actually looked up the words so I got them right. Who knows what he’s actually hearing? But, at least his great-great-grandmother’s legacy lives on.

Sing to and sing with your grandchildren. They will love it. You will love it. It’s just another joyous moment you can share with them – regardless of the words!

 

March to Your Own Drum

Have you ever wondered if the color you identify as red is exactly the same as the color your neighbor calls red? Does he see your red, juicy apple in a shade you would call purple? The world is a different place to every one of us because every one of us is unique.

Children these days begin school at a very early age. Whether it’s infant day care or summer camp, the hours are structured to include developmental enhancements. Each child is getting the same stimuli and training, But, each absorbs it differently. Even the youngest preschoolers bring their outside experiences into the classroom and vice versa. Not everyone learns the same way. Not everyone applies that knowledge to the same tasks in the same order.

As a grandparent, you have the perfect opportunity to foster uniqueness. Your time is usually spent playing and introducing your grandchildren to family traditions and activities. You’re rarely the disciplined teacher. Use your time to cherish each child’s personal approach to the world. Encourage his inventiveness. Praise her individuality.

Don’t expect these littlest humans to march to your drum. Instead, be delighted that they hear a rhythm all their own.

Sharing

“My turn” is a favorite phrase of my grandchildren. I’m sure they learned it at preschool where it really means something. At home, where they are the only ones playing with their toys, its significance gets a bit skewed.

Sharing is hard. As a hostess, I’m always tempted to save the cake with the most frosting for myself – definitely not good sharing modeling. It’s easier to share Brussels sprouts and ocher colored crayons. But, sharing your favorite dress, hoping it comes back clean and usable, that’s a leap of faith. No wonder your grandson doesn’t want to let his new neighbor play with his bright red locomotive.

When I’m playing with the grandkids, I ask when it will be my turn. That way, I always get a turn, eventually. If I hadn’t asked, would I get one? Sometimes. Sharing isn’t instinctive. It’s an acquired skill. So few of us share unconditionally. We should remember that taking turns is learned and relearned by everyone all the time.

Be patient (another acquired skill on which I’m still working). If you insist on taking turns, sharing will slowly become more automatic. It’s just another life lesson…and another reason to get down on the floor and play with your grandchildren.

Camp

Attending summer camp is non-negotiable in my world. Camp is where I made life-long friendships. Camp is where I was my most authentic self. Camp is where I was able and willing to try out new skills without fear of embarrassment because camp is all about laughing when you miss the archery target or fall off the sailboard. And, camp is all about getting back up and trying again.

I made my first well-turned out bed at camp. That’s a useful skill. Braiding lanyards, not so much! I waited on tables. I chose when to shower and when to just jump in the lake. These are big deals to a nine-year-old.

Camp is where I learned both independence and commitment. I became a correspondent and a more adventurous eater. Living in close quarters with a dozen other girls honed my sense of empathy.

My camp smelled good – wind and lake and trees. If felt good – pine needles make a remarkably soft carpet. It still looks the same – green and white and brown. Nothing fancy, but very comforting. Camp sounds good. I sing camp songs to my grandchildren while I rock them to sleep. They’ll be ready for camp since they’ll know all the tunes when their turns come.

Encourage your kids to send their children to camp. Even if it’s only for one week for one summer, try camp. Your family will thank you – forever.