The Grandparent Project: Part Eight

Growing Grandkids, Making Memories

Posting my family photos to this blog is recreating our history and reconnecting my family of origin in California to my grownup children in the Midwest. It’s also illustrating the model of grandparenting that my parents gave me. I’m not a grandmother yet, but I may be some day in the not-too-distant future. I’m pretty sure that my instincts in that role will follow basic principles like these…

1) Take lots of pictures. Here’s one that I found that has written in my father’s elegant script on the back, “My son. the uncle. Aug. 1993”  I dare David and Cristina to re-create this photo! (That would be a trick. I believe she’s taller than him now!)

2) Get outside to the park, the beach, the woods, the back yard. Explore and play. 

3) Read to them. 

 4) Eat together. Make meals a celebration. 

5) Keep toys and books at your place that they will remember and return to, year after year. (In the room where it happens…although this picture doesn’t show the cart full of building blocks, the game closet or the stuffed animal cupboard, it shows some of the books.)6) Above all, cuddle. I’m looking forward to this the most. I have a vivid memory of one Christmas when our travel schedule with our four very young children was particularly hectic. We arrived at the house and planned to drop off our luggage and then go on to meet someone. Our youngest was still a toddler, and all the disruption was overwhelming for her. I handed her to Grandpa and he sat down in a rocking chair with her. She clung to him like a half-drowned kitten and wouldn’t be separated from his strong embrace when it was time to move on again.

It’s good to have a safe harbor in a choppy sea. Grandparents can be that stability in turbulent times, for toddlers and teenagers especially. I’m so glad my kids had the encircling arms of my mom and dad when my husband and I were preoccupied with other cares. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

We collect estate sale items for our home business, Scholar and Poet Books. Most of these are books, but we  also specialize in recorded music, sheet music, and puzzles. We picked up a collection of about 300 jigsaw puzzles from a church rummage sale a few years ago. In order to resell them, we had to determine whether or not we had all the pieces. The only way to do that was to put them together. And so we began to assemble and photograph puzzles. That was about 2 1/2 years ago. We’ve become pretty adept at doing puzzles. We get great satisfaction in finding that all the pieces are included in these second-hand puzzle boxes .

However, sometimes a greater satisfaction is coming across a cool, vintage puzzle made from real wood, with ornate and elaborate “gazintas” – as in this “goes into” that. Steve gave me one that immediately reminded me of the Pastime Puzzles that my grandmother kept at her beach cottage. I lifted the lid and breathed in the aroma of old wood. I put it together while I was sick in bed with a cold. It was only a small puzzle, not like the ones my family would put together on the table in the living room. I realized there was one piece missing, but I wasn’t disappointed. It meant that it would be worth less in resale value, so I might as well keep it.

So “satisfaction” is not necessarily a complete puzzle. Satisfaction is enjoying the moment of discovery, the journey of working on a project, and the pleasure of keeping a memory alive.

 

Satisfaction

The Grandparent Project: Part Seven

I’m creating an online family history with this project, connecting my family of origin in California with my four grown children in the Midwest. So far, I’ve chronicled the story of six grandchildren enlarging our family circle. Now it’s time to introduce Grandbaby #7 – Cristina, the only child of my sister Sarah, born on May 6, 1993. I met Cristina in July when we went out to Los Gatos for my father’s 60th birthday. We managed to have a Cousins Day to get all the grandkiddies together…but it’s not very easy to get everyone looking in the same direction at once for a picture, especially when the camera is on self-timer! (And I seem to have run into the picture and obscured Cristina altogether with my big head. Sorry!)Ah, well. Here’s Amrit looking at me. We had great fun that day, and did some craft projects together to give to Grandpa at dinner. Before we sat down, I took some more photos. 

The old dining room table is stretched to its limit here, and still there are those “missing out”.  I have to admit that I am one of those people who fantasize about a gathering at table with all of the people I most love. It’s a sweet dream.

After dinner, we presented gifts to the patriarch. I had written up “60 Memories of My Dad” – kind of a grade school exercise, with a construction paper cover, but my father enjoyed it. 

We all put our handprints on his birthday banner. I got the idea from the plaster cast of my dad’s 5-year-old handprint that hangs on the wall at the family cottage in Michigan. And we colored a great, big birthday card, too. No matter how old your kids are, you always hang their artwork on a wall somewhere if they give it to you. And a present you make is always the best. I was hoping my dad still believed that.

Now, if I remember correctly, the next day was the day my father fell off a ladder while trying to retrieve a Frisbee that one of my kids had flung onto the roof of the garage. He ended up in the hospital with a couple of crushed vertebrae. However, he became the model patient, did exactly what the doctor ordered, lay in a brace for a couple of months, and recovered. Soon, he was back out hiking without any sign of damage.

Cristina’s baptism was some time that fall, I think. Seven grandchildren on the scene – that’s all of them. As the years rolled on, their differences and characteristics emerged. Today, the youngest is the tallest granddaughter and the oldest is the shortest…by about a foot. Here’s how five of the seven looked twenty years after that Cousins Day. This is Susan’s wedding day, July 28, 2013:


photo credit: Josh

“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, not my mama. Forrest Gump’s. My mama always said, “I’ll take any given thing!”

Me, too. (Especially if it’s chocolate!)

The Grandparent Project: Part Six Addendum

This just in: photos from my sister Dharam to add to the story of Grandbaby #6!

It’s amazing how easy it is to share family history with the use of current technology. The Grandparent Project is my way of connecting my grown children in the Midwest with my family of origin in California. I’m not saying it’s better than traveling to the homestead and pulling out the photo albums or bringing slides to a family reunion and projecting them on the walls of a banquet hall, but it sure is simpler and cheaper. Unfortunately, we don’t get the physical visit included, though. But maybe we can make up T-shirts anyway…

Here is what Aunt Dharam shared:
“Early 1992, Amrit on the way.”

“Newborn Amrit — despite appearing impossibly young here, I am 31 years old with my 2nd child.”

“Aug or Sep 1992 — Jim took time out from a business trip to tickle Guru.” (* I absolutely LOVE this photo. My husband was a kid magnet. I miss him tremendously.)“Christmas visit 1992 included Cousins Day at Golden Gate Park — for camera awareness, Emily is the pro!  Also, when you run with a herd, you pick up random strays.  I don’t know who the child on the right is.  Certainly, not Josh.  He was too busy riding the tiger.   (or kidnapping Amrit?)”

The Grandparent Project: Part Six

How do you keep your family history alive and pass it on to the next generation? And why is that important?

“It’s the story of those who always loved you…” Les Mis

My mother and siblings live in California. My grown children live in the Midwest. Miles and years have separated us in many ways, but sharing pictures and memories helps to connect us and remind us that we belong to each other, to an inclusive and growing circle of love. 

My blog posts so far have recorded the births of five grandchildren, two life-threatening medical crises, and a cross-country move. This is my children and my parents at our house in Illinois on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992: Things are looking pretty serene here!

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, my sister had just given birth to Grandbaby #6 on March 28.  I have to confess that I have no pictures and no memories of seeing Dharam Kaur pregnant. My cross-country visits just didn’t coincide with that stage of her life. But with her help and through the magic of the Internet and digital photography, we can put that event into this chronology. Stay tuned!

By that time, my husband was three months past his coronary atherectomy. But he began to feel chest pains again while playing tennis on Father’s Day weekend. He scheduled a doctor’s appointment during his mother’s visit from California and discovered that the arteries that had been scraped of plaque had (because of their rough texture) accumulated an even greater blockage. He had open heart surgery right away to create a double bypass graft. I was glad that GranMarni was already on hand, and so was she.  

We finally got to meet Cousin Amrit at Christmas time that year. We felt lucky to be together, to be able to travel again and to see our beloved kin. 

And we were overjoyed to be celebrating the anticipated arrival of Grandbaby #7!

Little Emily, who had been so ill with meningitis when she was five months old, was just learning to smile for the camera. Her front tooth had temporarily retreated due to a fall. These snaggle-smile shots are some of my favorites!

I think now that perhaps a snaggle-smile is the best illustration of the complexity of life, of family life – part joy, part pain, full of effort and imperfection, sincere and staged, an expression of heart and soul. How wonderful to have big arms surrounding you and another snaggle-smile to meet yours, face to face.

Weekly Photo Challenge: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Do you see something….unusual…in this photo?  

Blue ‘Shroom, I saw you standing alone….
It’s a lactarius indigo edible mushroom. The latex or milk that oozes from it turns from blue or blue/gray to green when it is cut open. I’ve only seen this one. 

And what’s wrong with this picture? 

Boys in shorts, green grass and blooming flowers, and…snow on the ground? 
Okay, I’m kidding. That’s not snow. It’s flower petals from the tree overhead. 

 

What about these? Anything ODD about this place? 

Yeah. It’s all weird. I don’t get humans. I’m sticking to Nature Photography. 😉  

Unusual

The Grandparent Project: Part Five

As a gift to my mother, I am chronicling our family history in these stories and photos of her seven grandchildren. This online slide show helps link my family of origin – mother, brother and two sisters – in California to my grown children in Illinois and Wisconsin.

When the kids were young, we used to compile a VHS tape of their activities and performances throughout the year and mail it to the grandparents at Christmas. Times have changed. Technology has changed. My longing to connect hasn’t changed much, and there are still a lot of miles between us. This Grandparent Project is one way I hope to make that distance seem smaller.

Two months after we moved into our new home, my parents and brother flew out for a visit. It was October, and the colors were spectacular. I realized how much I had missed the turning of seasons during my 15 years in California.  

My parents were especially glad to see that Emily had recovered fully from her battle with spinal meningitis and was growing strong and healthy.  

They also got the opportunity to reconnect with Midwest friends that they hadn’t seen for years. The fall turned to winter, and my California husband learned how to shovel snow. He seemed to have an especially difficult time, experiencing pain in his chest that radiated down his left arm. Eventually, he was diagnosed with diabetes and two major blockages in his coronary arteries. At the age of 31, he had an atherectomy and, later, a double bypass graft. The first procedure was in January of 1992, and again, I called on my mother for help. She and my brother came back out to Illinois to care for the kids while Jim and I dealt with this medical crisis. See that nice young man in his stonewashed jeans, High School sweatshirt and mullet haircut? That’s my little brother. He was born when I was 11 years old. When he was 11 years old, my oldest was born. He is a fabulous Uncle because he is like a big brother to my kids.

He was a bit awkward with them at first. 

But it didn’t take long for him to really enjoy their company, and they have always enjoyed his.

In fact, he asked my oldest to stand up as the leader of his Groom Squad when he got married two years ago. My son was on the squad, too, and my youngest was the officiant. 

Keeping connected over miles and years is not easy. Of course it takes effort. Of course we are all busy with other things close at hand. Of course days and weeks, months and even years slip by. And of course, we would drop everything if a family member calls to say, “I need you.”

I think my mom set that example long ago. We’re just following in her footsteps. 

photo by Josh