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. 

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

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.