Step By Step


One of the interesting parts of getting older, according to this aging Nonni, is gaining the ability to see the difference between reality and what people have perceived.

For example, I remember my childhood with so much warmth and love. My family was never, ever perfect (uh, we were humans, right?) but we did our best. My parents were first generation Americans with a strong Italian immigrant flavor. We grew up with pasta on Sundays, red wine in the glasses, lunches made of salami and provolone.

Our parents were dealing with all of the pressures of the 1950’s. Dad had served in the Army in WWII. Mom had grown up as the oldest child in an Italian immigrant family, and she gave up her dream of becoming an artist because that’s what women did in the 1950s. She got married. She gave birth to six of us. She raised us while my Dad worked days and studied at night.

We were unremarkable.

We were an American family in the years that followed the second great war. We were polite, we were respectful, we were good students.

We were NOT ever perfect.

The six of us learned how to push back against our parents when the Beatles hit these shores. We lobbied hard for long hair (the boys) and short skirts (the girls). We argued. We fought. We yelled at each other about the Vietnam War and the peace movement and the supposedly incomprehensible lyrics of rock songs.

But we were a unit. Six kids. Six attractive, healthy kids. Well loved by our parents, even when they drove us nuts.

And we loved each other.

I was a part of the “big kids” group. My older brother, me, my sister Liz. We were the first set of kids in the house. But we were followed, very closely, by the “little kids”. A baby brother, a sweet little sister, and another baby boy.

The “big kids” did our best to take care of the “little kids” as we all grew up in a middle class American family.

We were not perfect. We argued. We fought. We rebelled (although the big kids didn’t do it as well as the little kids). We did our best to take care of each other.

Life is never a straight line. Life is never the careful step-by-step that most of us hope we can achieve. Life is full of totally unexpected, out-of-left-field hits. All we can do is reach back into our pasts, into our lives, into our earliest selves, to make everything all right once again.

It doesn’t always work. But what else can we do?

I know that my family life has been 61 years of step-by-step. Sixty one years of trying my best to do my best. Trying to be the most loving and supportive family member I can be, while realizing that perfection is a myth.

Step by step.

We all do our best to be our best.

If we aren’t perfect, we are not to blame.

We’re only human after all.

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Every small step counts.

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“I Wish They Were Peanuts.”


Once long ago, when I was very young, I read a story about the great actress Helen Hayes. As the story goes, the young actress met her future husband at a party. Charles MacArthur was a playwright, and was as poor as she at the time. As the evening wore on, his infatuation with Helen grew, and he wanted to impress her. He poured a bag of peanuts into her lap, saying, “I wish they were emeralds.”

Many years later, well into a long and sometimes trying marriage, Charles walked up to his wife. He opened a bag and poured a pile of emeralds into her lap, saying, “I wish they were peanuts.”

At the time, all I thought was, “Oooooh, so romantic!”  I loved the simple symmetry of the gesture, although I really didn’t grasp its meaning.

Now, though? Now I understand.

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This year’s Christmas tree is all set up, and it’s a beauty. Tall, full, sturdy, fresh and fragrant. We paid more for this tree than we used to spend on a week of groceries back in our early days. Every branch features a treasured ornament. The tree is covered with strings of lights, all of which are lit. There are gifts all around the base and we have enough extra ornaments and decorations to cover every surface in the house.

Aren’t we lucky?

I know that we are! Our tree proudly displays ornaments that mark every stage of our lives. Vacations, the football years and the hockey years and the cute baby years. Family jokes, family reunions, favorite foods; it’s all there to remind us just how blessed we’ve been.

But you know what?

As I was putting on the ornaments this weekend, carefully selecting the right spot for each, I found myself tenderly looking at one of the oldest items in the Christmas box. I rubbed my thumb over the plastic frame, and rested the little circular image against my cheek, just for a moment.

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I found the cross stitch kit for this little ornament in a local thrift shop back in 1985. I was pregnant with my first child, and we had a little table top Christmas tree in the living room of our run-down apartment. We had shopped for ornaments, choosing a set of red satin balls and smaller white plastic balls with little sparkles. They were the least expensive items on display, and although they looked admittedly tacky in the store, on our little tree I was convinced that they were both elegant and lovely.

And although I have never been crafty, and am unable to knit or sew, I sat up at night cross stitching this ornament and one other just like it. As I slowly, carefully moved the needle in and out of the white fabric, I thought about my baby. I thought about our future, and how we’d make a family. I felt as if I was filled with light.

I stitched, and I dreamed, and I felt my baby moving inside me. I hung the little plastic ornament on our tiny tree, and looked at the sparkling lights. I lay down on our old sofa in that drafty apartment, rested my hand on my belly and smiled.

Life was perfect. We had so many dreams about to come true. Everything good lay ahead of us.

As I hung the old cross stitch on the tree the other night, I almost wished for those heady days of the cheap plastic ornaments. Almost.

‘I wish they were peanuts.’

 

The Universality of Motherhood


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When I was a new mother, I felt sorry for every other Mom on earth. I felt badly for them, because they didn’t have MY little one to love. I felt sorry for them because I knew, deep deep down in my heart, that there was no possible way that they could love their babies as much as I loved mine.

I was a jerk.

OK, I was a jerk in the most life affirming way, believing that my kids were the most beautiful, most beloved little beings in the universe. But, let’s face it, I was a delusional, mother-hormone-crazy woman.

Now I know the truth.

Now I know that ALL mothers love their babies just as intensely and profoundly as I loved mine.

I know because I see it every day.

I leave my house every morning and drive for 15 minutes to pick up my grandchildren for the day. I wind through the little streets of our small community. I stop every day for the school bus that seems to inevitably be right in front of me.

So I have had many, many mornings to watch the moms in our community putting the kids on the bus. I’ve come to look forward to seeing them every day. I watch how they interact with their young children.

And I know that no matter who they are, they adore those sweet little munchkins heading off to school.

There is one Mom who has caught my eye this school year. She stand outside every morning, rain or shine. She looks to be in her late 30s or early 40s. She is round, in both face and form. He hair is dark, thick, and curly, like my daughter’s. Her skin is a light coffee color, and her eyes are wide and dark. Although I usually only see her as I pass slowly by the bus stop, I know that she spends these precious before school moments with her son. She looks at him. They grin at each other. One day I saw them dancing.

I have seen them standing in the humid mornings of September, gazing up at the yellow leaves above them. I’ve watched them hold each other under a big black umbrella on rainy mornings. I’ve seen him running around his Mom, grinning and calling something that I couldn’t hear. I’ve seen her laughing at him as he does.

And I’ve seen this woman waving, and waving, and blowing kisses as her boy climbs the steps of the big yellow bus and settles into his seat.

I’ve watched her stand with a hand shading her eyes as she waves him off to school.

And I know that she loves this happy little curly headed boy just as much as I loved my own first born. I know that wherever she goes after he gets onto that bus, she is thinking of him all day long.

I don’t know this woman. She wouldn’t ever recognize me. Still, I know that we share the universal bond of crazy pants mother love.

She probably feels bad for all the other Mom’s she meets, too. Thinking how sad it is for them that they don’t have her little guy to love.

 

What I thought was lost


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It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s cold outside. I’m home alone, resting, looking back, feeling nostalgic.

I started looking through old photos, seeing my three sweet kids when they were little. When they were home. And that got me thinking about my two little grandchildren. The happy little souls who spend every week day here with me. And I was reminded of all the little joys that come with caring for children.

There are so many tiny moments every day that make me smile. Things I thought I would never experience again. Little things that I thought were lost to me once my own kids grew up.

But they weren’t lost at all! And I get to do them again now, treasuring every moment. Here’s a list of some of those little daily gifts.

  1. Brushing and braiding hair. Ellie’s hair is a miracle of shiny curls. I’m obsessed with it. I get to brush it at least once a day, then I ask her what style she wants and we chat about clips and hair ties. I love those five minutes every day! hair
  2. Bath time. I don’t get to do this every day, but when we get muddy, or we fingerpaint, or someone is learning to eat bananas on his own, I fill that tub with warm water and bubbles. And I get to hold warm, clean, wiggly little bodies wrapped in soft towels. I get to kiss the water off of little noses. Back breaking, for sure, but still something I am so grateful to still enjoy!towel
  3. Watching babies and toddlers eat. Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but there are few things that give me a warmer feeling than watching babies eat. This is especially true, of course, if I’ve cooked whatever it is! I never thought I’d have the pleasure of serving up nice warm, buttery pasta to a little one again! Johnnyspoon
  4. Holding a sleeping baby. If you’ve ever done it, you know why I missed it so much after my babies grew up. The soft, even breathing, the warmth of the skin against my cheek, the scent of baby hair. When I hold my grandchildren as they sleep, the years disappear. The world disappears. selfie sleep
  5. Those “I love you” moments. What can I say? My heart….A smile, a hug, a little hand on each of my cheeks. A little head resting on my arm. “Oh, my Nonni. I love you so much!”

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What a lucky do-over!

Oh, Stop Pretending!


I really want my daughter and her husband to trust me with their kids.

I mean, right now, I’m all they have in the way of day care, and I know they aren’t looking to make a change, but still. I want them to look at each other every night and think, “Gosh, that Nonni is just the best thing ever! Wow! What a woman!”

I know. Gross, right?

This is the same internal dialogue that has me cooking a fresh, home cooked meal with all of the major food groups every single night. Every. Night. For 39 plus years.

I know. I am still desperately trying to be a “good girl.” I still want approval every day.

Anyway, I want my daughter to be in awe of my fabulous maternal skills.

And mostly, she is. She’s quick to praise me and to thank me, and I know they really do appreciate having me there to care for their babies every day.

Today, though? Oh, today.

Let’s just set the stage by saying that last night was Halloween. And Paul and I went out to Trick or Treat with the kids and their parents and a bunch of friends. I was dressed like a witch. I walked up and down the street, often carrying Ellie in my arms. I was freezing. I got home with a cramp in the back of my neck and an ache in both calves.

Today I was tired, achy, a little bleary eyed. I was on duty for two over-tired kids. One wanted candy, more candy and maybe “a little tiny bit more”. At the tender age of two, our Ellie has become a better negotiator than D. Trump ever was even in his best delusional dreams.

She has learned how to pull on my heart strings. For example, when her baby brother cries and needs to be held, she has learned to wail “I need you, Nonni! I need special Nonni time! NOW!” She gazes up with her dark, dark eyes and lets her lower lip tremble, just a bit.

You’d have to be made of granite not fall for it.

And she knows that if I do anything she doesn’t like (like brush her long, curly hair) she sobs as if her heart is breaking, “Oh!!! I want my Mommy! Mommy, I miss you!!!”

I wasn’t born yesterday, and this ain’t my first rodeo, but Holy Crap, that’s hard to take.

And then there is our beloved little man, Johnny Jump Up. Aka: Johnny NoTeeth, Johnny Knuckles, Johnny Tank.  The boy is five months old and wearing 12 month clothes. He’s all smiles, until he isn’t.

Today was one of those days. He was either sound asleep or screaming and arching his back. He didn’t want to be held or rocked or sitting up or lying down or on his belly or drinking a bottle or in his bouncy seat or in his swing.

Every time Ellie stopped asking for “Nonni time!”, Johnny was screaming.

By noon, I was soaked in sweat. My heart was skipping beats. All I wanted from life was five minute alone. I put Ellie in front of a movie and Johnny in his swing. I put the puppy on the deck.

Then I went into the bathroom and locked the door. I turned on the fan and the water. And I sat with my head in my hands.

But that hurt my neck, so I went back out there and tried to face it all with a smile.

Kate gets her to pick up the kids between 4 and 4:30. By 3:30, both of them were awake and both were cranky. The dog kept charging at the living room window trying to attack the squirrels on the lawn.

Nonni was getting desperate.

I finally settled Ellie down to finger paint, and tried to jostle Johnny in my arms. At one point I found myself with John on my left hip, trying to vacuum up the popcorn (from Ellie) the torn paper (from the pup) and the leaves that had blown in. Ellie was demanding that I clean up her finger paints and wash her hands.

My blood pressure was rising. Johnny was whining. Lennie the puppy was demanding to go back out so he could start tearing apart the screen and demanding to be let back in.

I faced a moment of decision.

I could just let everyone moan and wail and cry and wait till Kate got home.

But then she’d know that I was on my last nerve. She’d know that I was asking myself what the HELL I’d been thinking when I signed up for this gig.

Instead of waiting it out, I put Miss Ellie into a nice bubble bath and settled John into his bouncy seat in the bathroom doorway, with his favorite toy at hand. I joked and smiled and waited.

And waited.

No Kate yet.

Ellie looked up at me with her big dark eyes. “Oh,” she said. “I feel a poopie.”

ANNNNND.

Empty the tub, put away the toys, wrap Ellie in a towel. Quick! Plop her on the sofa, grab Johnny and put him in his swing. Ignore his immediate sobs of rage.

Dress Ellie, while repeatedly asking, “Do you need to poop? Do you want to go on the potty?” Get her dressed in record time, throw the towels into the bathroom, grab the screaming baby.

Look out the window.

See the sweet sight of Mommy’s car coming into the driveway.

Think. I should greet her with a smile, show her the finger paints and the nice clean toddler. Smile about the baby.

That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I did.

I met her at the top of the stairs, handed her the screaming baby, told her that the toddler needed to have her hair brushed. Then I growled out the one word that was really on my mind.

“Wine?”

So.

I felt a little bad about the fact that I was not up to my Nonni best. I hated the fact that I had added to Kate’s stress by telling her that I was ready to jump off the nearest bridge.

Know what she said when I apologized?

“Ma, it makes me feel better to see that I’m not the only one who is driven crazy by the two of them!”

I need to stop trying to always be the good girl. I need to admit that sometimes lunch is a bowl of goldfish, that a movie is sometimes all I can manage and that locking myself in the bathroom is probably keeping all of us safe.

OK. Going to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

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The Gentle Aromas of Childhood


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I was a lucky, lucky Mommy. All three of my children were born healthy. All of them thrived on the breast milk that I was lucky enough to produce for them. They grew, they matured, they got stronger every day.

I was SO. LUCKY!

I mean…yeah, I was lucky that they were healthy. I was very lucky that they were able to thrive on breast milk. I was lucky that they were able to latch, and that I was able to provide what they needed.

I have always known how wonderful and blessed those early days were.

But now I have an entirely different perspective.

Now I understand that I was one of God’s chosen people because none of my children….not a single one of the three….was a puker.

Of course, they would occasionally burp and give up a tiny little blop of milky goop. But it was so insignificant that we were all able to politely ignore it and just move on.

I never had one of those babies who gurbled out 3 ounces of cheesy milky slime for every 5 ounces consumed.

I mean, I knew about those kids, of course. I remember when my first nephew was born. My sister-in-law described having to turn over her rocking chair once a week to chip away at the dried crud. I have always known that super pukers exist.

It’s just that I have never before had to deal with one!

When Ellie was a baby, she was a delicate, gentle, once in a while regurgitator. The kind of baby that needed a tiny little hanky to handle her rare blurps.

But now we have Johnny.

How do I describe my sweet, happy Johnny?

I love him! I adore him! I exalt at his very existence!

And yet…..

Johnny is a BIG BOY. He weighs almost 18 pounds at four months. He eats. A lot. Some days the little guy sucks down 14 ounces of breast milk, pumped by his goddess of a mother.

Then he joyfully squeezes his eyes shut and poops out 6 ounces of yellow slime into and out of his diaper, and right up to his armpits.

And that’s OK. I can handle poop.

But after every 4 ounces of nice warm Mommy milk in a perfectly sterile bottle? The little monster  boy immediately pukes up a stream of warm, stringy, mucousy milk. All over whatever clean shirt he is wearing.

Nonni then scoops him up, washes him off, puts on new clothes and settles back into her rocking chair.

Where said adorable boy pukes up a pile of yogurt all over the two of us.

Back to the bathroom, back to the washcloth, back to the bedroom for fresh clothes for both Nonni and boy.

And into the chair we settle, very, very gently. We sigh. We snuggle.

And approximately 10 minutes later, something that smells strangely like feta cheese comes flying out of that sweet little mouth and coats the two of us.

What can I say?

I love my grandson more than I could ever explain.

But I can no longer eat goat cheese. Or feta. Or brie.

I can no longer tolerate the smell of butter or cream. (gag) Or the thought of blue cheese dressing.

Cottage cheese? Fuggetaboutit.

I plan to steam clean my living room furniture and rugs with vinegar this weekend.

I am considering the idea of a cork for next week.

Gosh, I love this little guy!!!!

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Do I smell cheese curds?

 

“No!!! No kisses on me!!!”


My granddaughter, my Ellie, is the love of my life.

She is smart, sweet, beautiful, strong, feisty and affectionate. Sometimes, when I least expect it, she puts both arms around my neck and hugs me tight. “Oh, my Nonni!” she sighs. “My Nonni. You’re here!”

Sometimes she demands that I hold her, rock her, keep her warm. “Snuggle me!” she begs, after drinking a cup of the cold milk the she loves so much.

At just a bit over two years old, I am happy to indulge her. First of all, I know that a child this young truly needs to be held and loved and made to feel safe and special. But second of all, I know how fleeting this time will be. This magical time when she wants me to cuddle her and nuzzle her cheek and tell her how much I love her.

So I follow her lead. When she orders me to hug her, I do it happily.

But there is another side to this shiny coin, and it is one that Ellie’s Mom and I have talked about a lot.

That is the fact that sometimes when it’s me who asks for kisses or hugs, Ellie firmly states, “No. No kissing me.”

When I was a child, that message was most often met with, “Oh, that’s not polite! Kiss your Grandma/Aunt/Friend/Uncle/Neighbor.” Children were expected to respond with pleasure to the signs of affection from adults. Especially well known and well loved adults.

But those days are gone.

And good riddance.

Now when Ellie frowns and states, “No!” I back off as quickly as I can. “OK.” I say. “No kisses.”

It’s so hard, though! I love her SO much! I feed her, dress her, take her to the potty, rock her when she’s sad, kiss her boo-boos, tuck her in for her nap every day. I want to kiss her sweet cheek. I want to rest my lips on her brow. I want to rub my cheek on hers and nuzzle her neck.

But if she says NO, I understand that it has to be NO.

Because even more than I want to kiss her while she is still Nonni’s little girl, I want her to grow up with a sense of ownership of her own body. I want her to know the value of her affection. I want her to know, with absolute certainty, that her kisses are her gifts to give or to withhold. I want her to feel, in the deepest fibers of her heart, that if she doesn’t want to kiss someone, she doesn’t have to kiss them.

Even if that someone is her very own Nonni who made her buttered noodles today and sang her songs and washed her face ten times and didn’t fuss about the spilled juice on the rug. Even then.

If Ellie says “NO” then the answer is “NO”.

I want her to have the power to say “NO” and to mean it. Even if she says it to me.

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I only kiss Elmo.

“Stay at home…..Nonni”


I am a child of the 60s. My stay at home, Italian, Catholic, good girl mother was the very first feminist I have ever known.

Mom got married at 20 and raised 6 of us kids before she finally went back to get her college degree and begin a career in education. She was a feminist without ever calling herself that.

She organized the paraprofessional educators in our town to form their own union. She argued with our middle school principal when the rules insisted that girls had to wear skirts to school, even when it was 5 degrees and snowing out. She told him that when the boys wore shorts, her daughters would wear skirts.

The rules changed.

I grew up expecting myself to be a liberated woman. I knew that I wanted a career, even as I recognized my desire to be a mother.

I married my sweetheart at the tender age of 22. We both went to graduate school, where I earned a Master’s Degree while he went all the way to a doctorate. We both believed in our careers and our skills and our desire to contribute to society. I became a Speech/language Specialist, working with young children. He became a Clinical Psychologist.

We loved our work. We were proud of what we did.

So when we had children, it wasn’t a hard decision for me to go back to work. We needed the money. We needed the insurance that my job offered.

And I needed a place to go where I could feel smart and valued and worthy.

Now,(as the politicians say) let me be perfectly clear: I loved my kids so much it was kind of ridiculous. I thought of them 24 hours a day, I adored them, I treasured them, I hurt when I wasn’t with them.

But the thought of staying home all day, every day, to tend to the diapers and spit ups and juice boxes of those early years would have had me running off into the night without a thought.

And that’s what I am finding so funny now.

Now I am a stay at home Nonni. I spend all day, every day, Mon-Friday, with my two-year-old granddaughter and her three-month-old brother. I change up to 12 diapers a day. My fingernails have Desitin under them. Even as I write these words, I can smell old spit up milk and peanut butter crackers on my shirt. My sweaty, wrinkled, stinky old T shirt.

I wash faces 20 times a day. I brush tiny teeth. I read the same book over. and over. and over.

I chip baby pukies off the bottoms of my chairs. I do laundry ever other day just so I can have a clean burp cloth and at least one clean facecloth.

I can name every single character in “Finding Dory” and sing all the songs from “Moana.”

Thirty years ago, this would have made me insane.

But now I love it, poopie smells and all.

And it makes me wonder how a young feminist became such an old softie. How did I go from wanting to change the world to cheering when my little girl does pee-pee in the potty?

I’m not sure.

But I’ve given it a lot of thought, mostly while rocking babies to sleep.

So here are some of my thoughts on the subject of staying at home to nurture babies:

It’s easier now. It’s so much easier not to take every tantrum and every ignored meal personally.

From the vantage point of old age, I realize that little kids are tiny humans with their own moods and temperaments. They have their likes and dislikes. They have bad days. It is not about me. I would never have understood that as a young Momma.

It’s easier to let myself be a slob now. Nobody is looking at me and thinking, “wow, she let herself go.” If the neighbors see me outside in my flannel pants and baggy sweatshirt, pushing a double stroller, they think, “Oh, good for her!” They don’t think, “She looks like hell. Where is her self-respect?” At thirty, I could never have let myself be so comfortable.

And most of all, at the happy age of 61, I no longer feel like I need to prove myself to the world. Unlike my young, eager, unproven self, I am now happy to accept the fact that I am just fine. I have earned my place in the universe. I have raised three great humans. I have had a solid and successful career. I still have interesting and thoughtful friends. I read. I write. I vote. I’m enough for me.

So if my entire morning is spent playing with Playmobile jungle animals and eating gold fish out of paper cups….who the hell cares?

I am so very grateful that when I was a young mother with a full head of steam and lots of ambition, I had a place to do good work. And I am even more grateful that now, when I am finally ready to accept myself for who I have become, I am able to spend my days making home-made playdoh and watching Elmo’s Playhouse.

I am a stay at home Nonni and I’m proud of it!

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Yes, these are our toys.

What used to be…


For so many years, this was the week when I felt my energy rise and flood into every pore. This was the week when I thought about the new kids who would be in my care for ten months. It was the week when I unpacked the boxes of new folders, new notebooks, new pencils, new markers, new crayons.

For so many years, this was my week of starting over.

THIS would be the year when I’d finally understand the science curriculum and I’d engage the kids in such excitement about heating and cooling! Or THIS would finally be the year when I’d be able to make perfect small math groups so that every single child would finally grasp the wonder and joy of multiplying fractions.

The last week of August, for this teacher, meant a chance to really get it right. To forget the errors of the past, to embrace the shiny new textbooks of the new year, and to charge forward into a year of challenge and growth.

The last week of August is the time to shrug off your doubts and open your heart to your new classroom family. It is a chance to reinvent yourself and to create a new, harmonious home for your teacher heart.

I used to love this week.

Now I am in a different place. Now I watch my teaching colleagues set up their classrooms, label their desks, put names on their hallway cubbies.

Now I sit at home, feeling the cool evening air. Now I set up the pack n’ play, string the toys across the top, and organize all of the toddler snacks.

Now I sit back and appreciate the cool breeze. I think about the apple farms and the local parks. I plan trips to the lake, knowing that the only people there will be young mothers and happy grandmothers, all of us chasing little ones who are too young to worry about the first day of school.

Life is a big old circle. And I am riding around and around.

 

Predicting Love


Love is never predictable. When we’re young, we think we’ll fall in love with the perfect specimen of boyfriendness or girlfriendness. We think someone we have a crush on will be “the one” and life will be filled with rainbows and unicorns.

Then we meet someone kind and attractive and gentle and BAM. Not expected, not predicted, but there you have it.

Love.

I thought that after having been married to the same BAM guy for 39 years, and after loving and raising three children, that love would be exactly what I expect it to be.

I thought that love would be more predictable.

Two years ago, when my first child gave birth to her first child, I fell head over heels in love well before the baby was born. I intellectually loved her. I loved the idea of her, the fact of her existence, the philosophical meaning of her new life.

But as she grew, and became our funny, smart, loving little Ellie, I have fallen ridiculously, madly in love with her. I love her eyebrows, for God’s sake. I love her toes. I love the skin that gathers salty sweat in the folds of her neck. I love her breath and her teeth and her ankle bones.

I’m insane.  My whole world has been filled with Ellie.

Then, three weeks ago, her baby brother was born.

He is perfect and sweet and sleepy and he smells like a baby. I love the idea of him. I love the philosophical meaning of his life.

But you know what? Even when I held him on his first day, I wasn’t feeling that crazy kind of love. Even when I’ve been at his house to help change and care for him, I have only had eyes for Ellie.

I have been one very guilt-wracked Nonni, believe me. How could I not be feeling the same crazy depth of love for Johnnie that I had felt from the very first moment for his sister?

I didn’t know.  It didn’t make sense.

I knew that I would take good care of him, and would love him and play with him. But would I ever fall in love with him, the way I had with Ellie?

Today my son Tim and his sweet lady were here for dinner. My daughter and her family came, too. We sat outside on this gorgeous summer day, and Ellie played in the pool and picked strawberries with Papa.

We ate, we drank some beer, we talked and laughed and watched the Red Sox. It was loud and hectic and busy. It was fun!

But then, when dinner was over, everyone left to see a concert. Everyone except for me, Ellie and Johnnie and their mommy. Ellie went to take a nap, and her Mom went in to lie down with her.

The house was quiet, except for the whirring of the window fans. The dogs were asleep on the floor. A hummingbird was at the feeder.

Johnnie was in my arms, resting against my chest. One of my hands held his bottom, the other was curled around the back of his warm, silky head. He was murmuring and sighing, making the tiny noises of a newborn child.

I felt my heart beating against his. I breathed in his breath.

The house was quiet. I touched my lips to his cheek just as he touched his to my neck.

BAM.

There it was.

It isn’t rational, or explainable, this love for my grandchild. The words I am wrapping around it are only the faintest echo of the explosion that I felt.

My cells, my DNA, my soul were pierced by his weight in my arms.

I know. I’m crazy.

But love is unpredictable. Sometimes, like the love of a Nonni for her grandson, we know that it will strike us at some point.

It’s just that we can’t always say when.

BAM, little Johnnie. Welcome to my heart.

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