Four generations of separation
I can't help it; there's something divine about discovering a distant relative who always remembers your kid's birthday each year with a card. And there's something equally off-putting about the friend who hardly acknowledges that your child is in the room, let alone humoring her with gushy compliments about the carefully scribbled purple and orange horse she's so proud of having drawn.
What? I was busy pouring the Pinot.
But I hadn't stopped to think about how we feel when the our kids behave nicely towards the other people we love in our lives.
This past week, we spent a week in Florida with my nearly 91 year-old grandmother. I realize you can't expect too much of a three and a half year old and a 21 month-old in terms of empathy towards a relative they hardly know. You can't expect them to notice when Momsie is sitting alone in a chair, to come to her on demand, or to be entirely comfortable with her wrinkled hands and her slow walk. When she calls on the phone, I can hardly count on them to say much more than Hi...alldonebyebye before racing off to attend something far more interesting. Like a TV show. Or a rubber band.
And yet, I kept hoping throughout the week that they would give Momsie a little attention and maybe even a little affection. That despite their limited human experience, Thalia and Sage might somehow intuit that a nearly 91 year old great-grandmother who has outlived her husband by 20 years and damn near all of her friends--that this woman lives for the little moments.
Sometimes a teeny hand clutched around weathered fingers means a lot to the bearer of the fingers.
And so every time we gathered together and I saw Momsie set her sights on a little attention from the great-grandchildren I held my breath to see if she would get it.
In fact, she got more.
She got long descriptions of preschool and best friends, cats and chocolate cupcakes. She got awkward, silly, exuberant dancing on demand to Benny Goodman and Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye. She got copious lap sitting, hand holding, and walks up and down the sunny hallway. She even got in a game of hide and seek with Thalia who hides behind the same curtain every single time.
She got many kisses, many hugs, and two painstakingly hand-decorated Valentine's cards with MOMSIE on the inside, both now clipped to the fridge beneath the growing collection of family snapshots.
She got love.
Witnessing my girls connecting with their great-grandmother was of course joyous in itself. What I hadn't expected was how much more deeply it made me fall in love with my own girls. I want those I care about to love my girls, but I also want my girls to care about those I love.