My mother, Chickie Ling, Jerome, Arizona, around 1920

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Place Called Grammyville

Grammyville is where I live, not just when I’m within physical proximity to my grandchildren, but all the time.

Grammyville is difficult to describe. It's a fine place, but its skyline is changeable and directions there are tricky. I can tell you it not only offers some sweet spaces and a few social graces, but also busy intersections and noisy neighborhoods.

I have to admit I didn't feel like a grandmother right away. It wasn't the same as when my own serial litter began arriving thirty-five years ago. Because it doesn’t involve hormonal changes or an alien body invasion, I think becoming a grandmother is more like being a father, or, perhaps, an adoptive mother. All of a sudden there is this new person in the world, a person you didn’t have nine months to get to know.

A blogger friend recently posted something about how, as soon as someone becomes a grandmother, that’s the way she’s defined. While that may be true for marketing directed at me and people like me, I don’t think I’m particularly bound by my grandparenthood. Besides being a Grammy, I am also a teacher and a reader and a writer and a friend and a Democrat and a lapsed Methodist and a Diet Coke drinker and all the other good and bad and so-so things I am. In addition, I don’t own any t-shirts with pictures of my grandkids on them and my internet username doesn’t include precious references to them. That said, I did iron their photos on my little hand-made wallet, but that’s obviously more about creativity than progeny.

I do know, as soon as the grandchildren started arriving(and kept arriving) in Portland, Oregon, my living in Atlanta, Georgia became more problematic. Having my two oldest children live on the west coast for almost a decade hadn’t affected me all that much until they started having children of their own. Until then, the twice yearly quick-trips seemed to suffice quite nicely as we all went on living our lives.

I was in the room when Miles was born and what a memory that is. But I have to say my joy was more for Melissa and Trevor and for our family as a whole than it was for me personally. I was certainly excited, but I hadn’t quite landed in Grammyville yet. I held the little critter and thought he was mighty cute, but, at that point, I was more focused on how Melissa, my own baby, was doing. The bonding began to happen the more I was around Miles, especially when I had him to myself. I remember when Melissa and Trevor came to Georgia to attend the Master’s Golf Tournament and I kept Miles overnight, letting him sleep with me for a little while when he woke up in the middle of the night. I still recall the feel of his baby skin and the rhythm of his heart as he slept next to me.

When Cami came along, I made it to Portland when she was just a couple of days old. Again, I was happy for Billy and Mary and for all of us, and she was an adorable little nugget too. But it was months later, when I took her for her first walk in her stroller with her little red sunhat and we stopped and looked at the flowers and listened to the birds, that I began to see the two of us as an item.

Georgia, my newest grandchild, while a cutie pie herself, still isn’t too sure about me. In fact, she tends to cry as soon as I walk into a room. However, I’m confident we will become friends as soon as we can get rid of her mama for a couple of hours. She already thinks I’m pretty funny when I make my stupid noises and that’s an important first step in learning to love me.

I believe good communities are based on mutual affection and shared experiences, and that's certainly true for Grammyville. When Miles grins and says "Hi Grammy" in his gravelly boy voice and then does his special burlesque act for me, my heart expands with real joy. When Cami lets me hold her hand as we take a walk and when she sits in my lap for a story, it feels like the old ticker is going to burst. And I'm thinking the first time Georgia picks me over everyone else in the room (and she will), I just might explode with happiness.

And so, if I had to pinpoint Grammyville's whereabouts, I'd have to say it's located somewhere near the center of my heart. I just hope that having it take up residence there doesn't cause me to go into cardiac arrest, or, worse yet, to change my email address to something like, or, worst-case scenario, to become so delusional as to believe there's a place called Grammyville.

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