Call Me Grammy
By: Andrea Lavine
Who am I? Am I ready for this?
If you require political correctness, and balk at the idea of generalizations or stereotypes, this may not be the article for you. Personally speaking, I have found that my mind makes order out of the mass chaos of our world by categorizing my experiences and expectations. The irony of that statement is that I do not, nor have I ever, fit neatly into any box or category. I would be a wealthy person if I had money for every time I am told, “You are the most unorthodox Orthodox person I have ever met.”
My mind works in pictures. When I think, I create images. When I read, I see the story and hear the narrative. When I set goals, I feel the accomplishment and see myself in the role. Usually.
I am a pretty straightforward person. I live a life of predictability. I follow rules, adhere to social norms, and though I may “push the envelope”, I don’t break the rules. I am adamant when I am certain I am right, and I will be the first to admit I am wrong or have made a mistake. Usually.
So, here is where the pictures in my mind, the organization I like to make of life’s chaos, realities and expectations, and being a rules-follower have created a cognitive dissonance:
In my mind’s eye, a grandmother is a woman who is aged. Her body may be softer than it once was. Her mind may not be as sharp, or as malleable to the ever-changing technology. A grandmother is a matriarch who always knows the answers to the deep secrets of the world. She is the keeper of wisdom. She is the glue that holds a family together. She lovingly bridges the stories of the distant past and the hopes and aspirations for “a better life” for the next generation.
A grandmother has a certain scent, not a smell, but a pleasing scent that transcends laundry detergent, fabric softener, or perfumes. Hers is an air of capability and success. Hers is an aroma of tried and true family recipes. Hers is at times mothballs, mouthwash, or perhaps preservatives.
A grandmother has a magic touch that heals, encourages, and understands. A soft touch, though not always soft skin; soothes away the tears when the parents say no. A soft touch that heals the pain when fun with siblings or friends turns to hurt or fury. A soft touch that gently prods you towards, and soaring past, the next “it’s too hard” or “I can’t”. A soft touch that celebrates the achievements, that reaffirms that she always knew you would be successful. And alas, a soft touch to soothe all that aches: the heart, the mind, the soul.
A grandmother is a confidant, a cheerleader, a doctor, a teacher, a great big cuddle bear, and the embodiment of confidence and love. The grandmother is the modern family’s superhero. Swooping in when the kids are sick, and the parents need to go to work. Swooping in to bring a game or activity that will quell the feuding children. Swooping in with the magic solution to the latest parenting problem. She’s Mary Poppins. She’s The Nanny. She’s Ms. Frizzle… In reality, she is: Grandma, Savta, Bubby, Oma, Grammy, Granny, Nanny, Guggs, MomMom, Nanna, Nanny, Memaw, Geega… By any name – Grandmother. For generally, she doesn’t mind what she is called, so long as she is called.
Here I am, a straight forward, “call it like I see it”, rules-follower, who works full-time and is still learning the wisdom of the world. While I am not a home-wrecker, I am certainly not the glue that holds an extended family together. I try to recall the stories of my ancestors, but I was young, distracted, and not really listening as intently as I should have when they were told to me. I have no “old country” stories. I, (along with two generations before me,) was born in America. I don’t have a perfume or face cream that is my signature scent. I am not particularly genteel, soft spoken, delicate, or have a soft touch. I am far more talented at self deprecation, than I am confident of my capabilities – in my chosen profession, avocation, or homemaking.
While I will never adorn the cover of a fashion magazine, I am not the matronly-attired, pantyhose- wearing, sensible shoe-clad, buxom woman the image of grandmother conjures. I still wear sneakers, sweatshirts and jeans. I wear makeup when I have to dress like a grown up. I like to play in the dirt, giggle with my friends, play ball, and sometimes hang out with “the guys”. I am a really small kid in a great big body; yet I am serious about family, professionalism, religion, and loyalty.
How am I possibly a grandmother? I feel so unprepared. I feel too young.
As I gaze down into your eyes, my beautiful girl, I learn the truth. You look up at me with your newborn eyes. You wrap that tiny hand around my work-worn fingers. You bear the name I recognize of those who came before you. With every beat of your little heart and puff of your little lungs, you become part of my heart and soul. Your scent permeates my being. Your soft hair tickles my cheek. Your drool dampens my shoulder. As it did with the arrival of each of my children, my heart grows to add another fiber of my being. That fiber is you, and more fibers will be added by those in your generation who come after you – those to whom I am the woman I will grow to become – Grammy.
I suppose it is not about who or what I am or seem to be. It is not about what I know, how I feel, how I smell, or what I do. It is about the next goal I have set. The next goal I am committed to meeting. It is about how I make you feel. I hope the answer is – you will feel loved, comforted, supported, heard, encouraged, and understood.
We will grow together. Three generations. Creating a new history. Me, your mother, you and your cousins. I suppose I am ready – because ready or not, here we go.
lives in Baltimore, MD, where she and her husband have raised their family since 1989. As a mother, social worker, and critical care paramedic, Andrea has made a life out of trying to make order out of chaos and finds writing an honest and sometimes humorous way to do so.