“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.

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“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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Worth The Effort?


What is it that gives a person “worth?” I’m old enough, and self aware enough, to know that worth is not measured by money.

Hey, I was a teacher! I’m married to a therapist. Money has never been our goal.

But what is it that lets us move through our days with a sense of self-worth?

At the tender and transitional age of 61, I’m struggling with this question once again.

You see, I used to find my sense of worth from my work. I have always worked, and had a purpose.

When I was only 22, I was a Russian interpreter. I took new immigrants to the doctor. I sat in therapy sessions, helping patient and doctor to understand each other. I helped with surgery, translating what the doctor wanted the patient to do during cataract surgery and cardiac catheterization.

I even helped to interpret at a baby’s birth. I was valued. I felt my worth.

Later, I became a speech pathologist, a job I held for 20 years. I helped families learn how to communicate with their disabled children. I helped those children to find their voices.  I was valued. I knew that what I was doing was helpful and important.

And after many years I became a teacher. I taught fifth graders. I was a fun teacher. I was funny. I made learning interesting. No matter what, I will always know that I was very good at my job.

I felt so good about myself in those years. I felt worthy.

Then things changed. I lost my teaching job, and moved into retirement.

And this is where the question of worth has reappeared. When I have my granddaughter in my arms, I know that I am the most important person on earth. Ellie needs me. Ellie loves me. I am NONNI.

But it’s summer.

Ellie is home with her Mom and Dad and new baby brother. They are close by. I see them almost every day. I love them all more than I could ever express.

But.

Now I have no role. I have no job. I have no way to measure my worth in this lovely world.

So, dear blog readers, I guess I’m fishing. (Phishing?)

Now I wonder, is a gray haired lady still useful if she isn’t physically able to manage her garden by herself? Is she still worth keeping if her husband works hard every day while she stays home and cleans things?

Does it count that this house has NEVER been this clean? Or that the closets are completely organized?

What do I do with myself on these long days? How do I define myself?

Is it legal to actually have three months of vacation while everyone else is working?

I swear, in September I will be back to working hard. I’ll have both two year old Ellie and three month old Johnnie. My arms, my heart and my day will all be full.

But.

What about now? Do I earn some kind of Donna Reed points for the incredibly clean kitchen cabinets and the very fluffy towels in the bathroom? I was raised by one of the first feminists. I know that just being a “homemaker” isn’t an actual role in life.

But what else do I do while I’m waiting to go back to Nonni extraordinaire? How do I feel good about so many days where nothing is actually accomplished?

Sigh.

I have to admit. I think I’m nuts. I hate the fact that I do this to myself.

On the other hand, if anyone needs any alphabetized spices, come on over.

 

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Poor useless Nonni

It was the dowels


I was at my Mom’s house today.

At 87, she still lives in the house where she and Dad raised me and my five siblings. The house is getting old, but my parents were always careful and attentive, so it’s still in very good shape.

But there are corners, little places, where the effects of time are more obvious.

We used to have a beautiful pool in the backyard, surrounded by a paving stone deck that my Dad built. There were little round tables and wrought iron chairs where we’d sit under colorful umbrellas to have a snack and rest from swimming. There were redwood recliners and little wooden planters that my Dad built himself.

And there was a wonderful “pool shed” in the back of the fenced area. In the summer, my parents would set up a long table for parties and barbecues. We’d line up, in our dripping suits, towels casually slung over shoulders. Everyone would grab a plate and fill it with beans, salad, grilled sausages, chicken, burgers and dogs. There’d be coolers and tubs of ice cold drinks, and my sister and her husband would have huge tubs of Italian ice for dessert.

In the fall, that pool shed would become storage for the pool toys, the water wings, the chairs and the fish shaped placemats. The pool would be covered, the pavers washed, and everything tucked away neatly until the following spring.

The pool has been gone for about ten years now. As my parents got older, and Dad had health problems, the upkeep became too much. And they no longer swam or sat in the sun.

So the pool was taken out, the land was filled. A beautiful perennial garden was planted, with flowers and dwarf trees creating a spot of serenity behind the house. There was still space for the tables and chairs, the umbrellas, the placemats.

And the pool shed remained, its wooden doors occasionally opened for barbecues. We didn’t drip as we stood in line any more, but we still gathered and laughed and ate. We are Italians; we had wine and we still had wonderful food.

But the years have gone by. Dad left us in 2008. The garden is a little overgrown, in spite of our best efforts, with the roses and the lilac fighting for space. The redwood chairs have broken down and are gone. The tables are getting rusty.

And the pool shed has become the home of squirrels, mice and probably a whole group of unknown invaders. It has slowly seen the life vests and pool noodles chewed up and piled into nests.

This spring we decided it was time to really clean it out, once and for all. Big, black, plastic trash bags were filled with chewed up placemats, old citronella candles, chair pads, floats and plastic table cloths. Piles of molding paper, pill bugs, spiders and mouse poop were scooped up and deposited in the bags.

The pool shed is clean. It is empty of the old, the useless, the faded and torn.  It is empty of the past.

Even though I cried as I cleaned it, I was proud that we brought it back to a state that would make Dad happy.

So today I was at my Mom’s. A clean up company was coming to haul away all the old junk and trash that we had piled up. I was standing in the garage, making sure I knew what was supposed to go.

I was looking at the shelves. The rows of paint brushes, arranged by size. Untouched since 1995, but arranged by size. I picked up a roll of old tape, no longer sticky, no longer of use.

I tossed it in the trash with a feeling of accomplishment. Mom came in. We started to look through the stuff in the garage. In Dad’s garage. In the place where I know I can always find my father, although I find his gravesite empty.

We slowly and carefully took down a few small items. A roll of some kind of sticky felt paper. A gummed up, unopenable can of “goo gone”.  I tossed them in the trash.

Then I looked up. To the top shelf. To the highest of the 3 shelves Dad had built for his garage. There were boxes of items, mostly shoeboxes. Each was carefully marked.

“Mom” I said with firmness. “We can probably get rid of the box marked ‘adhesives’.” I knew that whatever was in there wasn’t going to adhere to much of anything anymore.

Mom didn’t answer. Instead, she pointed to the next box on the shelf. “What are those?”

I looked up. It was an old shoebox, closed tightly. On the side, in my Dad’s careful handwriting, was the single word “dowels.”

Who else except my Dad, the world’s more organized and careful handyman, would have a shoebox marked “dowels?” I stood there. Mom stood beside me.

“I guess it has dowels,” I said. Mom didn’t answer for a minute.

“Let’s just leave this,” she said.

I have never agreed with my Mom more than I did right then. I wiped my tears with dusty fingers, then reverently replaced the ‘adhesives’ box.

I think we were almost ready to let some of it go. But we were stopped by that one word. “dowels”

We miss you, Dad. I’m not even sure what a dowel is, but I can’t throw yours away,

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My Dad


My Dad could fix anything. He fixed pipes, cars, broken toys, cracked walkways.

He was a builder. He built shelves and storage sheds. He created furniture and toys and additions on the house. His hands were sure and capable. He frowned when he worked, puzzling over a problem, a pencil always over his left ear.

On Saturdays, he’d work in the yard. He would weed, screen loam, spread grass seed, prune the bushes. There always seemed to be something for him to be doing.

I remember him coming in for lunch, in a white t shirt or a sweatshirt, that pencil still on his ear. We would have Italian cold cuts. Mortadella, salami, capicola, provolone cheese. He’d put hot peppers on his sandwich if he had a cold.

On hot days, Dad would sprinkle salt into his beer. I never asked why, but in my childhood it seemed like a right of passage.

Dad could make pancakes. On Saturday mornings he’d let my Mom sleep in a bit, and he’d sit with his kids watching the Three Stooges and the Little Rascals. He’d sit on the floor, his back against the couch. We would perch on his legs and nestle into each side of him.

He’d laugh. Loud and exuberant, unrestrained, big open mouthed guffaws at the antics on TV.

Then he would make us pancakes.

Eventually, Mom would come down the hall, in her robe. Dad would always grab her and kiss her with the ardor of a teenager. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he’d ask his wide eyed children.  We readily agreed.

Dad was patient. He tried like a saint to teach me the concept of algebra. I never mastered it, but he never gave up.

Dad was generous. He was honest. He had more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known.

When my Father died, the line to get into his wake was so long that it wrapped around the building. People he’d known for years mixed with people he’d met in his job. They came with thanks, and they came with sadness. They came to tell us how much he’d meant to them.

Our Dad was loving. His adored our Mother, the love of his life. He loved all six of each children, and every one of his grandchildren. He made time for us. He listened.

I see him in the dark brown eyes of my granddaughter, and I see him in each of my children. I hear his voice as I walk in the quiet woods. I feel his breath on my cheek as I drift to sleep with a baby in my arms.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

I love you.

And Then There Were Two


When I finally, after a lot of struggles, had my first baby, I fell madly and deeply in love.

She was perfect. She was beautiful and smart and incredible and breathtaking. In my entire life, I’d never felt such a deep love. Ever.

Then some time went by, and we wanted to have another child. It was an abstract idea. We loved being parents, we loved our girl so much.

Let’s do this again!

Then, at last, after even more struggles, I found myself pregnant again. I was thrilled, of course. I was delighted.

Right up until the little one started to move around in there, and it suddenly hit me, right between the eyes.

“Oh, my God.” I realized with complete shock. “I can never, ever, ever love another child as much as I love Kate.”

Oh, crap. What had I DONE?

What would I do? How would I ever be able to cover up the fact that I simply could not possibly love number two as much I adored number one?

I suffered in silence for a few weeks.

Then I gave birth to my son.

My perfect son. He was beautiful and smart and incredible and breathtaking. I fell head over heels in love.

Well, lookit that. You can love more than one child just as deeply and just as intensely.

When I was pregnant with baby number three, I didn’t worry at all. I knew that my crazy, loopy, besotted love would just multiply itself like magic. And it did.

So why have I been worried for the past three months about grandchild number two?

I mean, I’m supposed to be the expert here! I should already understand this stuff. My daughter, the mother of both babies, was her usual serene, happy self. She wasn’t worried at all.

But me. The Nonni. The one who should be the glue, the center, all that stuff…..Why was I waking up at 2AM thinking “Oh, my God! I can never ever, ever, ever love another child as much as I love Ellie!”

I felt guilty months in advance. I stayed awake at night, trying to formulate my response when my daughter asked me why I didn’t love her second child as much as her first. I had no answer.

I tried to love him, this unborn boy, in advance. But all I could think was, “Now it won’t be me and my beloved Ellie here every day.” I was sad. I was conflicted.

I was a crazy, neurotic nutburger of a grandmother.

And then, suddenly, as if I hadn’t planned for it for months, I got that middle of the night call. “Hey! It’s time to have a baby!”

And off I raced, to spend the night with Ellie while her parents went to have the baby. I paced, I prayed, I worried. And deep in my heart, a funny little golden spark began to fizz and crackle.

The next day, while I was giving Ellie her lunch, I got the message. Baby John was born and healthy and my daughter was doing just fine.

We gave it a little bit of time, one last me-and-Ellie-nap, and then we went up to see them.

That tiny boy. So perfect. So beautiful. His dark blue eyes trying hard to stare back at me. His tiny lips in a bow of concentration. His soft hair and silky skin.

One look. One touch. One kiss.

I was in love. Head over heels. Madly and deeply in love.

Why does this still surprise me?

Love is the most powerful force on earth. I wonder why that still surprises me.

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Rompers, Uncles, Memories


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What an interesting, emotional time of life is middle age.

I’m finding so much joy in the smallest things. Watching Ellie sleep. Rubbing my puppy’s little belly. Eating olives and cheese with my Momma.

I’m finding so much sadness in the speed of life and how it changes. I miss my old profession, and I miss my teaching friends. Those supportive relationships meant more to me than I even knew.

And death is a more common part of my life than it once was . Losing my father, my grandparents, beloved aunts, uncles, in-laws.

But it also strikes me that one of the strangest parts of being this age is how the happy and the sad keep bumping into each other.

I have a story from today that shows that confluence of feelings. It shows how circular life is, and how nothing seems to ever really go away.

Today I opened a package of clothes I had ordered last week for my granddaughter, Ellie. It contained summer things, including the adorable little romper in the picture above. I had been planning to buy her some shorts and t-shirts, but her Mom told me that those cute one-piece rompers are popular now, so I ordered some.

And my first thought as I pulled the clothes out of the package was that my baby sister Liz and I used to wear those back in about 1960. I immediately pictured a matching pair of rompers, one pink and one blue. I remembered, more than five decades after wearing mine, how it felt with elastic gathering the material around my middle.

I also thought right away about my two Uncles, Bob and Joe. When we were little kids, and our parents were in their thirties, our Uncles were only in their teens or early twenties. They often baby sat for Liz and I and our older brother, Ed.

We were in awe of them.

We called them “Bobby and Joey” and to us they were an amazing mix of grown up and super fun. They always made us laugh. They usually gave in if we asked for something, like a cookie or a popsicle from the ice cream man.

They seemed to think we were amazing and fun, too, which made them seem like not-quite-serious adults.

One of my memories, so clear in my mind no doubt because it was traumatic, was a hot summer morning when Bobby and Joey were getting us dressed for the day. I think we were planning to go to the local playground, but I’m not sure.

I remember being excited, and I remember that I put my romper suit on. I was hoping that one of the big kid/grown ups could manage to put our hair into pony tails.

Suddenly, Uncle Joey said something that sounded alarming. It might have been, “What’s the matter?” or “What did you do?” I looked up from zipping my blue suit.

Uncle Bobby was kneeling in front of my baby sister, who was probably about two years old. She was standing perfectly still, but tears were pouring down her cheeks. Bobby and Joey both looked slightly panicked.

I remember one of them slowly unzipping Liz’s pink romper. And I remember the red line running down her skin.

She’d been caught in the zipper. Poor little kid!

I remember a whole bunch of reactions running through my four year old brain.

These two guys were definitely NOT real grown ups! And wasn’t it sweet to see how bad they both felt and how they cuddled Lizzy to make her feel better. It was funny to hear them kind of blaming each other, too. Like kids!

And, boy oh boy, this little problem better not stop us from going to the playground.

Today I smiled as I picked up Ellie’s little romper. I lifted it to my cheek to feel how smooth and soft it is. I thought about Ellie’s Uncles, Matt and Tim. My boys. How much they love her and how they play with her.

I hope that she grows up with memories of her time with them. I hope that they inspire her, as Bobby did when he refused to give up on his dream of becoming a doctor. I hope they make her laugh years after a great joke, like Joey did with me.

I hope.

We lost my funny, kind, smart, tender Uncle Bobby this morning. Right about the time I was unwrapping Ellie’s little summer outfit.

I’m definitely going to take her to the playground in it one day soon.

Oh, and I made sure that I didn’t order one with a zipper. I know my own limitations!

Thanks, Uncle Bobby. For the laughs, the love, the tender care. Sempre La Famiglia.

 

I Think I Finally Get It


For years and years, I’ve been hearing the same grandparent joke, over and over.

“The best part of being a grandparent is that you get to spoil them all day and then give ’em back at night!”

Heh. Heh. Heh.

Yeah.

I don’t get it.

I’m not in the regular grandmamma situation, though, so maybe I’m out of touch. But for me the joy and contentment of being with my grandchild is not about the moment I hand her back to her parents.

And it sure isn’t about the idea that I can “spoil” her and make her a brat and then laugh as her parents try to cope with the monster I’ve created.

No.

For me, since the moment I first touched the satiny skin of my first grandchild’s cheek, it has all been about the moments when our grandbabies are with us.

But even though I get to spend every single work day with my Ellie, I still didn’t really understand exactly what I was feeling. And even though I spent the majority of the past two years acting as Ellie’s Nonni, I still couldn’t find the words to describe the depth of my feelings for my grandchild. The firstborn daughter of my first born child.

It wasn’t just the dizzying idea that my baby had produced a baby. And it wasn’t simply the realization that I loved this tiny being with every single molecule of my self.

I couldn’t describe it as the feeling of relief that I honestly experience every day when I look back on my 24 years of raising children. It wasn’t only about the realization when looking back that there really isn’t that much we can do to screw them up completely.

I made about a trillion mistakes, but my three adult offspring are absolutely wonderful people. So, see? As a mere Nonni, I didn’t have to worry that much about my every move.

No.

None of those thoughts summed up the feeling of peace and calm and contentment that I am getting as the full time Nanny/Nonni for my very own flesh and blood grandchild.

But after I dropped Ellie off at home today, I listened to a piece on NPR. A young mother who had suddenly lost her husband was talking about how she managed to overcome her terrible grief and find joy again. She talked about forcing herself to find gratitude. She recognized that true joy, and true happiness, come in the small, happy moments of every day life.

And I thought about the tiny, normal, routine moments of every day with Ellie. The moment when she greets me. The moment when she asks for my hand. Or when our eyes meet through a car window as I fill my gas tank, and her face lights up just to see me.

I thought about watching her fall asleep. Or looking at her as she kisses my old hound dog so gently on his head. I thought about teaching her to brush her teeth. About the smell of her warm neck. The softness of the curly hair.

I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to have a new chance to wrap a wriggly little body in a warm towel and snuggle her until she is warm and dry.

Grandparenting, to me at least, is about having the time and the confidence to be grateful for every moment of every day with a baby in our arms.

I swear to you. It is SO NOT about the moment when you send them home.

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