Friday, April 1, 2011

And Then There Was One

The van pulled up in front of the house and the doors slid open and out popped energy in the form of our two grandchildren: Maren who is 8 and Peter who is 3. Mom Kate seemed more relieved than energized to have arrived and who could blame her, for four and a half hours is a long time to be the only adult in a car with two children, but they are excellent travellers, and she was fully prepared with snacks and entertainment. They had listened enraptured the whole time to a CD of Charlotte's Web, and Peter immediately told me about the pig and the spider. Maren was a bit more blase', pointing out that this was Peter's first time to hear the story, but she, of course, had read the book before. Hugs and kisses were shared all round, and the unpacking and settling in began. Within minutes, the house was full of books and toys and games and happy voices and movement--and shoes and boots. 

Then after a fun-filled weekend, Kate packed up the van with Pete and some of the boots and shoes and left Maren here for her week of spring break.
Over the course of the next few days we went to the zoo, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa ( a real treasure) and the Children's Museum here in Madison. Bruce and Maren became the puzzle masters and put together a 1000 piece puzzle on the dining room table. Since the weather prohibited much outdoor time, we created our own film festival and watched Night at the Museum II, The Parent Trap II, Miss Potter and a Little Women--thumbs up for each one. We even went to see the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. The week was full of activities along with plenty of reading time and sleeping time and just plain hanging out time. Pure delight. Eventually, it was time to return the girl to her rightful owners and on Monday morning Bruce was back at work, and the only shoes in the entry way were mine. Sigh!

Since Maren has gone home and I have returned to my solitary routines and tasks, I have been thinking about my own grandmothers, Grandma Hansen and Grandma Jensen. My memories of my grandmothers are more vivid than those of my grandfathers, even though they were both alive when I was growing up. Perhaps it is because both men were quiet. I was the first grandchild on both my mother's and my father's side, and I was blessed to have lots of grandparent time. I loved spending time with them, but to some extent my experiences were quite different than Maren's. Before she comes Bruce and I brainstorm ideas--where should we take her and what should we do? He schedules vacation time, and I try to finish projects before she comes, for I know I won't spend hours at my desk writing. We eagerly await her arrival and can hardly wait to tell her what we have planned.

When I visited my grandparents, I was quite simply folded into their lives.The work days proceeded and I was just there. I sat on the steps to the cellar while Grandma Hansen crated the eggs she would sell. I picked strawberries in her garden and took lunch out to the field where Grandpa Hansen was working. When Grandpa died and Grandma moved into town, I walked with her to the drugstore where she worked and to the cemetary where Grandpa was buried. We baked cookies and cut out paper dolls and made Christmas ornaments--hundreds of sequins on styrofoam balls. I remember grocery shopping with Grandma Jensen and sitting next to her in church and on a hot summer evening having a special treat, a Black Cow, root beer with vanilla ice cream. I loved her pecan rolls and her pile of magazines. In the afternoon she would stretch out on her couch and read and I would sit on the floor and read, too.

Ordinary events, but an extraordinary feeling of being loved and protected and cherished. That's what I want Maren and Peter to feel, too. I want them to remember being wrapped in love and acceptance. More than the special field trips, I suspect what they will remember most about times with us are the ordinary times--all of us reading in the living room or walking to the park and hearing the sandhills or snuggling in bed in the morning or playing Sorry or Clue after supper. Maybe Maren will remember how she arranges the vintage holiday candles on top of the cupboard in the kitchen or that there were always homemade cookies in the apple cookie jar. Pete will soon have his own set of memories.

The Big Events are great fun, but the real gifts come in the little touches, the soft conversations and the teasing and the giggles, and simply the time to be together. May there be many more of these times.  

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