I have just finished reading a delightful book, Isa and May, by Margaret Forster, which is about a granddaughter’s quest to understand both of her grandmothers better. Naturally, this has got me thinking about my own grandmothers, especially since I am about to become one myself. I am taking this rite of passage very seriously and I am savouring every moment leading up to the big day.Such was their influence on me that I still think of my grandmothers with amazing frequency in spite of the many years they’ve been gone. My paternal grandmother, unfortunately moved far away when I was still quite young and suddenly died shortly afterwards. The few memories I have of her are, however still sharp and clear. I might add that every time I think of her I feel a strong physical connection to her. I can totally recall sitting in her lap, fingering one of her brooches or sitting next to her as my grandfather serenaded her, which, to my great embarrassment, he did often. I am told I look like her and certainly I can see from the few photos that I have, that we share some physical traits, most notably our unruly hair.
My other grandmother, the one who actually raised me, is often the voice inside my head. When I was young I thought she was perfect. She was tiny but very strong, well-read but also street smart, generous and kind but also tough as nails. You always wanted to stay on her good side and you certainly never wanted to get caught doing something you weren’t supposed to. She had many rules and regulations, the first one being that a ‘good’ child was praised, a ‘bad’ one, punished. Since I was rebellious and had a vivid imagination, I often got myself into trouble, causing her, poor woman, no end of grief.
In hindsight, I recognize that she was simply doing the best she could with what she and my grandfather had left to give, which after having survived both World Wars, a serious economic depression and immigration late in life, wasn’t much. That they shared their small house with me is a gift I am eternally grateful for even though I now see that the atmosphere in that home was not exactly ideal for a young child. Emotionally exhausted elders are not necessarily the best child-minders, even if they are well-meaning and loving in their own way.
I would like to do better now that my turn is coming. So I think about all this as I prepare to receive the newest member of our family and I ponder what it is about being a grandmother that thrills me so. For one thing, it’s a chance to share the joys of motherhood with my daughter. Soon she, too, will know what it is to experience the miracle of childbirth, the perfect harmony Nature provides. It will surely enrich our mother-daughter relationship by putting us on a more equal footing; two women who are both mothers.
On a more personal level, becoming a grandmother means that I have come full cycle. I am now at the point where my grandmothers were when I was born, with the chance to impart upon my grandchild some of the legacies these two women left with me. As a grandmother, I will become the nurturer of our collective cultural traditions as well as the keeper of our family lore. I will be the bridge between the past and the future of our clan, in order to give my grandchild a true sense of self within that circle.
I am grateful to live in a time of peace and prosperity and to have the energy and good health my own grandmothers did not. I will make sure that my grandchild knows how lucky we both are. I look forward to the day our little one arrives, to loving it with abandon and to seeing if by chance I have passed down my unruly hair.