(Previously published in the June 2016 Issue of The Sturbridge Times Magazine).
One would think my first whirl as a grandmother would have prepared me for the second.
So much for supposing.
Back in 2012 I didn’t know what to expect. The parents-turned-grandparents circle around me assured me upgrading from mother to grandmother would be more fun, less worrisome, more rewarding, and much less tiring. “The kids go home at the end of the day,” many echoed.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that, even as I anticipated the wonder of holding my first grandchild, there awaited something just as wonderful. Something as precious as, a few days later, feeling the intensity with which he’d fix his wide-open eyes on me, as if to acknowledge Grammy was a sight worth absorbing to his very soul.
What became just as special was watching my daughter morph from wife to mother. She exuded a deeper joy than even on her wedding day, a greater seriousness of purpose than her care for her students or the house pup. In the midst of this passage she also seemed to take on the added worry and tiredness I have been – to a degree – relieved of as my son and daughter set out paths of lives and loves of their own.
Last month, I expected to relive similar wonders as I awaited my second grandchild’s birth – this time, a girl. Yes there would be more pink, more bows and ruffles. But I had been around the block with a grandchild already. Nothing much would surprise me this time.
Nothing – except Grandchild Number One.
A month or so before her birth I asked my grandson, “Are you excited about having a little sister?’
He looked me straight in the eye with – I swear – the same gaze-to-the-soul he shot my way as a one-week-old, and answered, “Yes no yes no yes no yes no.”
Thus began the unexpected narrative of Grandchild Number Two: Watching Grandchild Number One take on the mantle of Big Brother. He’d been rehearsing older-siblinghood since Christmas, wheeling a “little sister” doll around the house in a miniature umbrella stroller. He’d read his favorite book to the make-believe sibling, telling more his story than the one in print. Those were easy scenes for him to play out in his unfolding drama of family.
It became more difficult for him when, as his mom’s belly swelled, he had to refrain from jumping on her lap. Even less cool: being woken up after a nighttime car ride, because he was just too heavy for his very pregnant mom to carry from car seat to toddler bed. Perhaps his “yes no” answer evolved from one sort of moment here, another sort of moment there.
The joyful exchange of three generations ensued in the room through the afternoon. At one point my grandson performed a Snoopy dance as he exclaimed, “Tonight I get to sleep at Grammy’s.” After a round of great hugs and kisses, the two of us headed down the hallway, ten steps or so, until he stopped in his tracks. Pointing his finger to his head, as if he had just discovered a solution to a problem, he said, “I forgot to tell Dad something.”
“Then let’s go back and tell him,” I said. We retraced our steps to the room.
Message conveyed, we once again exchanged goodbye hugs. This time we made it as far as the elevator when I felt the extra-tight grasp of his hand over mine. As we descended to the parking garage the tightness turned to tension. Next, I perceived a lip quiver, then a sniffle, followed by tears.
“I don’t want to go,” he cried softly.
After our third visit Dad walked us to the car. Big Brother cried, louder this time, but fell asleep within minutes on the ride to Grammy’s. He awoke refreshed, recalling the visit with glee and eager to share the day’s news with my neighbors.
“My Little Sister was born today,” he said, then turned to me to ask, “What was her name again?”