Grandmothering: It’s not that simple!

Full of glee!
Full of glee!

“You’ll love it,” so promised enthusiastic members of that club when my oldest, Jenny, was pregnant. They were right, but the gift of new life brought upheaval too. None hinted, and I didn’t suspect, that the impact would be dense and textured. Both light and dark layers comprise my new stage and status as grandmother, as strands interlace and weave such exquisite art.

The delights abound. Weekly they amplify. Like when infant Isaac first started recognizing me on reuniting after days, or weeks, of separation. Though only months old, he’d chortle and hold out his arms. Oh, the joy—I held that mental snapshot for hours, sometimes days.

My husband pinned on a label on the appeal, “There’s nothing like that look of adoration.” Hmm, is that part of the appeal of relating to a baby? A longing to be worshipped? Or, more kindly, to be unconditionally—well nearly—accepted?

And the thrill of seeing Isaac change from an immobile baby—totally dependent on human hands to get from one place to another—to crawling and now walking. What seemed subhuman nine or twelve months ago became a toddler. As a new walker, he wobbles, awkwardly shifts his weight from one foot to another. I’d forgotten the charm in a little one’s uncertain gait and his gaze to us for kudos.

And the wonder of seeing him explore and his early reactions to happy gifts of this earth—both excite me. The pucker of his light-brown brows and waver of his lips tells his how of unsure he is when confront with a new culinary experiment—the sharp corners of corn flakes or the pungent taste of cold tuna. As he reaches out to touch a leaf or a flower, I enter into his curiosity. What fun it’s been—it breaks my apathy to plants I’ve glimpsed a thousand times. Once numb to the wonders surrounding, I take them in with new eyes.

And what equally fascinates me is the process of acquiring language, as when—for the first time—he actually sat still for a picture book looking at its page. Or, when he wanted it read to him a second time. Lately I tell him frequently, “This is a (purple, pink or yellow) flower.” His parents do that too, in both English and Turkish. Together we introduce him to the immense variety shapes and colors all bearing that designation flower. He’s piecing together the puzzles of words, and I see glints of new understanding alighting. What an incredible process. I discover language anew through Isaac.

Being a grandmother lifts me up to a new, or forgotten, order of pleasure, but it also undoes me. I’ve felt so protective of Baby. And not only of whether Isaac is warm enough, fed enough, slept enough, but also of the well-being of his mother, my daughter. An old haunting has returned. As if again I’m a teetering freshman heading into finals week. So after the absence of Isaac’s dad on an overseas trip, when he returned, a relief broke over me. I felt as glad as a backpacker cleansed of a day’s sweat under a miniature falls.

A totally unexpected sensation has come as I’ve watched Jenny with her little one—the sting I feel at times from memories, stinging like a cold and salty wave engulfing an open wound. The past – our own mother-baby duo—has crashed in. Recall of the seemingly endless exhaustion and bewilderment of motherhood has fortified my offers of help and comfort, but regret is also part of the memories. I’ll post next my reflections on traveling through that angst.

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