My granddaughter Jessica is visiting this week on her first visit to Grandma’s Montana house and her first train trip. She rode the Empire Builder from Seattle. Jess is 18, in love and planning a wedding.
When Jess was 8, she lived with me for two months. Her mother, a Red Cross Emergency specialist, slogged through the pile in New York City counseling rescue workers after the Towers went down. Jess’ best friend Clarisse lived a short run down the path through the woods, so I generally had two girls who kept each other entertained. If it was quiet at my house, they were off terrorizing Clarisse’s little brothers.
One nice thing about my grandchildren is that I am able to have a more relaxed relationship than I had with their parents. Parenting comes with a burdensome weight of responsibility. I have come to believe that we parents suffer the blood, sweat and tears of raising our children so we can have fun with theirs. It means we get to spoil them. It means we let them get away with things we wouldn’t have dreamed of tolerating from their parents. We can sympathize with the little buggers when their parents are being “mean.”
“You want me to spank Mommy for you?” I ask. Her little lip quivers. “Yes,” she says. Then we both burst out laughing.
Grandchildren are fun. Last summer I spent three weeks taking care of Lexi, my son’s three-year old. She and I had a great time. Our days usually consisted of a walk to the park, two hours on the swings, numerous snacks, dressing dolls (I dressed them and Lexi undressed them), playing in the sandbox, riding the trike, an hour on the tube with “Dinosaur Train”, unnumbered hours of “The Little Mermaid,” M&M’s whenever she wanted them, and best of all, jumping on Grandma’s bed and reading books. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. (With my grandkids I can be silly in a way I could not have been with my own children at the time I was raising them.)
I haven’t been able to spend as much alone time with Jess’s sister Toni. Her mother has always been there to spoil the fun. Toni at five, has a lively imagination. When she was born, I flew to Japan to spend a month helping her mother take care of her. We took turns walking the floor with Toni bundled in our arms while she made up her mind whether to stay and play or leave us all too soon. Today she is a whirlwind of energy and a budding entomologist.
Before Jess arrived, I had planned a week of activities. We haven’t crossed many items off my long list of possibilities. Remember, Jess is eighteen. In my experience, when my own children came of age, teenage, that is, they either vanished or were otherwise vacant. Out with friends. In their room, door closed. On the phone. Down the street. Any activity which did not include Mom.
Mostly, Jess and I just hang out. I go about my own business. Jess spends a lot of time in my backyard garden, or playing with the cats, or in her room, apparently quite content. We spent hours at the Sally Ann in Havre one day and then drove to Chinook where we poked around in Goodies Galore for another hour. (Jess and I share a delight in second-hand stores.) We went for ice cream. We hauled groceries home. She worked with me in the shop.
This morning we picked strawberries. She helped me wrap nets around the Saskatoon berries and the currant bushes in hopes of keeping the robins away long enough for me to get a harvest. We sat beneath the poplar trees and watched the clouds move in. This afternoon, if it doesn’t rain too hard, we will drive out Wayne Creek Road and hunt agates and other pretty rocks.
Jess and Marcus plan to be married in October, when he has finished with his Navy schooling. The time apart from him has been hard for her. Once they are married, she will get to go with him, as long as he is stationed stateside. Meanwhile, she and her beau spend every possible sweet moment on the phone. I wish them the best. I am glad I got to spend this week with her. I’ll miss her when she is gone. I like Marcus. Maybe next year they both will visit Grandma. Great-Grandma? Not for a while, I hope.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after recently returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)