My life today is all about memories. I share them from the past and make them for the future. Growing up, my grandmother gave me the greatest gift of all…her undivided time and attention. She made it great fun to practice proper English, posture and penmanship. She treated me with respect and kindness and always told me how special I was. I lived with her until I was three years old, when my dad came home from the war. By then, Grandma and I had developed a strong bond. As I grew up, she’d always give me a nudge and a hug if I was ever in doubt. I cherish the attention and time Grandma Carswell gave me over the years and send it forward now with my own grandchildren. The oldest one gave me the nickname Gramcracker…this is our bond.
From the moment I met her, I knew she’d be my person. That person who loves you unconditionally and becomes a part of your inner self. We both felt it when my son first placed her in my arms…it was in her eyes and mine, a spark, a connection of souls. For twenty years we’ve gravitated together every chance we can. Her parents quit their jobs, packed up and moved cross county when she was two months old so I could be a part of her life. They lived with grandpa and I for several months.
There she was on the floor scooting, crawling and pulling herself up when I got home from my classroom each day. When they moved into their first home, she’d sit on her stool in the doorway, watching for me to come up the driveway. She was my ever-present buddy at age three, wanting lots of grandma time when her little sister came along. She rode in the back of my car buckled in a pink car seat reciting rhymes and singing me songs that made my heart soar.
At age six, her family moved across the country again, but I took time during school breaks to visit my girl in California. It was paradise, her home and school were on the beach. Sand and sea were their way of life now, so we made it ours as well. Before long this bald, inquisitive baby girl who spoke in sentences at age one grew into a smart, confident young lady. At age twelve, she wanted to see snow, learn about Alaska, try dog sledding. Grandpa and I made it happen. Flying across the snow like a magic carpet, mushing the dogs through high drifts and freezing temperatures, my granddaughter and I laughed and squeezed hands knowing this was a memory-making moment.
As the years went by, we spent more time in our own beach house and guess who my playmate was! We rode bikes, learned to paddleboard and built sandcastles together. For ten years grandpa and I did this, making sure we celebrated birthdays, school events and holidays with both girls. Summers brought them back east to spend time at our house, swimming and playing with their cousins. The annual traditions included tea parties, colored pancakes, sprinkler fun, chasing fireflies and two bedtime stories: one from a book and one about their daddy’s childhood.
As they grew older, the girls took turns coming alone. My oldest came one summer with her learner’s permit…oh how we loved riding along as she learned to drive. She was a high school junior, but spending time with us was still a priority. She felt our bond even more when I shared stories about my own grandma taking me on bus trips, reading Little Women together and hanging clothes outside to dry in the summer.
Suddenly, this granddaughter was there when I needed her most. A month after grandpa died, she spent her fall break with me. She sat on the bed and listened. Asked how we had met. She held my hand and hugged me, knowing what to say and when to stay quiet. She was there a year later when I decided to sell the house. It was hard letting go of the Grandma and Grandpa House that also embraced four other grand kids. But she talked me through it, eventually saying ” it’ll be okay, I can tell you’re at peace with it.”
Her family’s move back to Michigan inspired me to return home too. Back to where my story began. I found a condo and soon this number one girl was my roommate. A college student now, she stayed with me to be closer to campus. Luckily, she took over the kitchen, a far better cook than me. She’s intelligent, creative and fearless…a Katniss warrior to this Pollyanna nana! Opposites in many ways, we mesh and muddle through as only best friends can. An art major, her painting of my blue beach cruiser with years of salty-air-rust forever captured on canvas hangs on the dining room wall. Most recently, she’s put her creative talents into writing and publishing two novels. I think back to the pride and delight my grandmother had when I left home for college, wondering if she felt the same hold-on, push-off tug that swirls inside of me.
I’m cherishing time with my girl, the young woman she has become. She’s moving again, back to California on her own. The countdown has begun. She’s eager to go and do and be. Go sweet girl, follow your dreams. Listen to your heart, feed your soul, chase the waves. My gift to you is a nudge and a hug.