Sunday, October 15, 2006

Being a Lesbian Grandmother

Being a mother was, and is, a wonderful experience. But as others more eloquent than I have written, there are often impediments to closeness and connection with one's own children that are miraculously by-passed with grandchildren. My daughter and I are very close, but it wasn't always that way. We had a long period of estrangement when drugs and alcohol claimed her allegiance, and I lost her for many years. Sobriety brought her back to first mad as a tick, and occasionally still she is angry and withdraws defensively, but we always find a way back to each other, back to loving each other. And, over the years we have begun to find peace in the connection we have with each other, to value each other highly, to enjoy spending time together and delight in each other's company. We love each other and say so frequently. I apologize often for the mistakes I made as a parent. We pay our dues, in our own ways and for our own reasons.

With my granddaughter there is no such tortured history. The love bond between us is unhindered by the absence of a shared umbilical cord - we just love each other outright and unabashedly, with nothing in the way. I remembered this in a big way today, and especially this evening hanging out in Starbucks. I happened to be on the phone with my daughter who mentioned that she and granddaughter were thinking of walking up to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee for my daughter, and a hot chocolate for granddaughter. Would I like to go? Well, I normally avoid drinking coffee late at night, but as it's a Saturday and I can sleep in on Sunday, I decided to see if Mr. Lesbian was interested in going to the local Starbucks for coffee. Affirmative.

Arriving at Starbucks, my granddaughter selects a cookie (M&M cookie) and places her drink order (child's Frappuccino, no coffee, with whipped cream and caramel sauce), and my daughter and I order for the three adults. Settled in easy chairs, we watch as granddaughter gets out her large tin of crayons, and opens her art books. Tiring of that, she leaps onto my lap, and asks me to read the latest book we had bought for her. It's a Hallowe'en book, called "Trick or Treat, Smelly My Feet." Sounds inoccuous, right? Turns out to be the story of a boy and girl whose gender-appropriate Hallowe'en costumes get switched around accidentally and the boy is forced to dress in the pink ballerina costume (wearing a paperbag on his head so he can't be recognized) while his littler sister proudly wears his Captain Space Pilot costume (which she had coveted all along) to the Hallowe'en Parade. In an accidental tumble, her brother's paperbag falls off his head, and he is revealed to all his friends in the ballerina costume. Quelle horreur! However, the little boy bravely decides to make the most of it and proudly pirouettes across the floor, while his little (male) friends applaud him for his unique costume. Issues of gender identity fascinate my 7 year old granddaughter, who is still trying to make sense of Mr. Lesbian. (Oh, the funny stories I could tell you about THOSE discussions! Later, girls, later!) She lies snuggled in my arms as I read to her, and I breathe in the sweet smell of her hair realizing how she still smells like the tiny, preemie I held all these years ago. She is such a survivor.

Finished with the book, and energized by the powerful effect of sugar on a small child's adrenal system, she wants to play..and I mean PLAY! She bounces up and down on my rickety knees demanding more and more bumpy play. She loves, loves, loves to be squeezed hard and laughs till tears roll down her cheeks as I pantomine being disinterested in playing, and then suddenly grabbing her and squeezing her tight. "Tighter, Nana, tighter!" she shrieks, barely able to talk through her giggles and laughter. "Do the disco animal dances, Nana!" she demands. So, I perform the various disco dances in the manner of their animal namesakes, and all in time with the motown music playing over the speakers at Starbucks that moment. I'm not afraid of making a fool of myself. I've spent too much time working with children to be deterred by feeling a trifle foolish - it's fun to play. She copies my moves, the panting tongue and floppy paws for a begging dog, flapping fins and "fish faces" for swimming fish moves, the prancing disco horses reminiscent of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance routine - well, you get the picture.

In this way, two hours go past. I can think of few ways to pass two hours at the speed of light than to hang out playing with my granddaughter. I feel like I'm beaming love at her constantly, steadily and unabashedly for the whole two hours - she's easy to love, and shows her love back. Oh god, she will have her struggles. She will grow up, fall in love, and she will doubt herself on occasions, as we all do. But please let her remember how much her grandmother loved her, let her remember how loveable she is, not just at the age of seven, but when I'm dead and gone and she's fifty-seven. Let her please never doubt how easy she is to love.


Blogger outsidemymind said...

Thanks for putting a positive spin on a topic I dread!!

7:19 PM  

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