The house is quiet! This is such a contrast to how things were earlier this morning when everyone was back to their weekly schedule of work and school and getting ready for their individual destinations! As the door closed on the last person out the door, a hush settled over the house. I can hear the wind chimes tinkling outside as the wind blows them around. I waited to make my coffee until the family was on their way because I didn’t want to get underfoot. So, now, I begin to brew a cup of coffee in their Keurig coffee maker. Mmmmm! This modern machine really does make a good strong cup of coffee.
As I was waiting in our sons kitchen for my cup to fill, it brought back memories of my parents. My mind reflected back to my folks, who used to come and stay at our home in the early winter months when I would travel with Al in his career to various Award banquets throughout the country each year. On average, we were gone about 4 days each week over the period of a couple of months, so the only solution to my being able to go with him was for my parents to move in for that period of time. My parents lived too far from us to just come and stay with the kids for four days and and go back home each week. Because they were retired, they chose to just move in for that period of time and we were so grateful that they did this for us! It worked out perfectly because the kids felt like they had two sets of parents, each from a different generation. One of the lasting legacies from their time together was that these kids learned to be comfortable and enjoy being around the older set. They liked being with their Grandparents, and to this day, they have pictures of their Grandparents taking residence in their homes on the top of different pieces of furniture for all to see, all these years later. To me, these pictures give witness to and evidence of an ongoing love, and it makes my heart swell!
Now that torch has been passed to us to interact with our Granddaughters and just “be” with them. In school and in their extracurricular world, they are taught how to “do” many things. How to do this and how to do that! So many important lessons are learned in the years they are growing up. There isn’t much that Al and I can really offer to our Grandchildren in this day and age where we are technology driven. We don’t have a farm on which they can play like our children’s paternal Grandparents did. A place where just going there to spend the weekend meant they could hang out with their cousins and experience a little bit of their fathers boyhood. What more could a young child want than to be on a farm where you are free to roam the countryside and investigate the many outer buildings built around a large circular driveway, completing the circle with the traditional two story white farm house? This century old house boasted a big sprawling porch overlooking the corn field and from the ceiling of the same porch, hung a swing where one could sit and gently rock to and fro for hours on end, just enjoying the state of “being”. This farm was the children’s much beloved destination where they could run and play in and around a corn crib, a hay loft, tractors, chickens, cows and an old farm dog! There was always an abundance of old bikes to ride and a lot of very old toys with which to play. Pure bliss!
Our children also experienced Canadian fishing trips on their maternal Grandfathers large fishing boat. Both Grandpa and Grandma thoroughly enjoyed skimming across the huge bodies of cold, clear Canadian fishing lakes and particularly loved fishing for Lake Trout. Oh the joyful anticipation the children felt when we would pack our gear, getting ready for another summer trip to Canada, where they would spend time with their Grandpa and Grandma, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. We took turns fishing all day, while the others swam by the beach in front of lake front cabins, or fished from the docks. We all enjoyed the delicious fish frys and fish boils that Grandma prepared in the evenings from the fresh catch of the day!
Those evenings were where OUR children learned to play Peruvian Rummy, the card game Grandpa and Grandma brought home from South America! Sometimes there would be two tables going. Al and I always had the most wonderful time watching our children having this bonding experience. I still enjoy remembering the year we celebrated the 4th of July in Canada with the kids running around in the dark with their sparklers. Those were wonderful family events where we all just relished being part of a larger clan. It felt SO good to belong! No one worried about “entertaining” the kids. They were just a part of a bigger picture and they were happy to be a part of things. Oh, I do think Norman Rockwell may have thoroughly enjoyed painting our famIly at play.
Now here I sit, drinking my coffee with a smile on my face as I relive those happy times that happened so long ago. In my mind, those days seem like they happened just last summer, but it was a long time ago and their Grandparents have all gone on to their eternal reward. The farm has been sold. The boat is long gone. Yet, the memories from those times are safe and secure in my minds eye. I can still remember the sounds of the cows in the field on the farm and the color of the early morning sky as we stocked the boat at dawn to go out for a days fishing.
So now…what do WE have to offer our Grandchildren? We do not have a farm. We do not have a fishing boat. We live in Texas and they live in Minnesota, so no “over the river and through the wood to Grandmothers house we go” for these kids.
We live a long way away from our two Grand daughters, but we try not to let this get in the way of our relationships. These are different times which lead to different experiences. One day, I was lamenting to Al about the differences between our Grandchildrens experiences with extended family as opposed to our own children’s experiences and he said, “The truth is this, Juanita…you can’t know what you don’t know!” So true! What he meant, of course, was they cannot miss what they have not had. They only know THEIR experiences and their memories, so we don’t have to be concerned with the comparisons, anymore than worrying about our children missing out on what were OUR experiences in childhood. Each generation has its own set of experiences, therefore its own set of memories.
It is really nice to come and visit them in their world as we get a view of their day to day life. Their everyday life is a whirlwind of activity. From the time they get up until 8 or 9 p.m. at night, they are on the go with little breaks in between activities. It is the way things seem to be for this generation. I watch in absolute amazement at how their parents are able to each hold down a full time job and still manage to give their children a quality upbringing. An example of this is when their Mother, who is up daily at 5 a.m., takes the time to go in nightly to read a story to her 9 year old. The 9 year old is a prolific reader (due to their Mothers encouragement and who read to them while they were still in the womb), but hearing her mothers voice as she drifts off to sleep is a way of getting her cup replenished with a good heaping helping of old fashioned Mother love.
This past weekend, our younger Grand daughter got sick and both Mother and Father took turns sleeping on the floor next to her bed in case she needed them, which she did. She only had to drop her arm over the side of her bed to feel the reassuring presence of Mom or Dad. No matter what is said about this generations addiction to technology, these two girls seem to have a healthy balance of both new world and old world parenting.
As for these two old birds who have flown north to see our offspring? We are simply HERE. We are here for them to come and sit by us on the sofa to visit and talk about their day. The younger girl asked if she could practice solitaire on my IPad which she learned how to do the last time we were here. “Of course!” I said, as we both bent our heads over the app. and she began to play the game with me gently supervising. It wasn’t really about the game so much as it was about sitting side by side and feeling the others presence. I know it felt as good to her as it did to me.
One tradition we have proudly passed on is a card game. We played our family card game again while here, the one my parents learned while living in South America. Our whole family learned how to play Peruvian Rummy and played it for years. A different way of communing as a family, but communing all the same! Somehow, for us, cards bring all of us together on one even playing field. Age is not a factor in this game. We are all connected by the desire to win in a friendly game of competition, and it is fun to run through the 5 hands of cards required to complete this game. Last night their Dad (our son) joined in, even though he had a lot more pressing issues at hand and at first he was fairly quiet and introspective and solemn as he studied his cards. But as the game wore on, his mind came around to playing the game and he began to smile and enjoy the game. We are soon going back to Texas, so he made the effort to be a part of this experience. With three generations playing, he contributed to his daughters memory bank that she will tap into somewhere down the long expanse of her life. Something will spark the memory of her being the youngest of three generations playing together and it will make her smile at the way the memory warms her heart.
Well, the wind has picked up outside. It has gone from breezy to blustery! The chimes have gone from tinkling to clanging. The clouds are rolling in since Grandpa left for a walk. Poor Grandpa! The temps are dropping fast! This is our last night here. We go home with our family cup filled once again. We can only hope we have left some small memory for them to store away for some far off time.
I think “being” is at least as important as “doing”. “BE still and know I am God”. We are human BEINGS, after all. I think the modern world offers an ongoing and relentless amount of entertainment for our children which keeps them busier than they really need to be. The quiet times of being really do matter. Listening to Moms voice while she reads to you as you drift off to sleep contributes to a sense of security. Hearing Dads breathing as he lays on the floor by your bed “being” near you when you are sick is a comfort. Playing a thoughtful strategic game of cards with the elders gives one the sense of continuity. Having Grandpa and Grandma watch me play soccer as they are swaddled in 4 layers of clothes topped off with a quilt to protect them from the blustery cold winds, teaches me love in action.
Memories! Memories are as unique to each one of us as are our fingerprints, and as unique as we are from one another. It is good to learn how to DO things in this world because we are here to learn and grow. It takes a lot of energy to teach the lessons on doing. But, “being” can also be a good lesson offered by the elders. We are the only ones who have the time to just “be”. To our Granchildren we can say, “Come along with me….the best is yet to BE!” (Thank you Robert Browning, for letting me personalize that quote).
Ah! The ever growing family circle of never ending lessons, and never ending love! A family tapestry all woven together with each person from all generations contributing their own thread and their own color. No wonder it is so beautiful!
Jjb/copyright, October 12, 2015