The Grandparent Project: Part Nine

My family of origin is in California; my grown children are in the Midwest with me. Getting us all together is tough. This summer, I’m hosting a kind of a family reunion on this blog by sharing photos and family stories featuring my mother’s seven grandchildren. 

My parents were incredibly helpful grandparents, especially during those hospital episodes I’ve mentioned. When my husband & I reached our 10th wedding anniversary year, we decided to splurge on a trip to Europe. Mom & Dad offered to take care of the four grandchildren…provided we let them do it at the family beach cottage in Michigan. My parents were quite familiar with dealing with kids in that setting. After all, they’d spent many summers there with their own. So, with Uncle David’s help, they treated our brood to two weeks of fun and frolic on Lake Michigan, making “Cottage” memories with the next generation. 

I have to admit, I was a little jealous of that vacation. I had so many great memories of the Cottage that I wanted to re-live myself. Fortunately, we were able to take the kids up there ourselves several times over the years. Our last trip there was right after our oldest graduated from college in 2007. GranneLouise, Aunt Sarah and Uncle David were able to join us for that. My husband Jim died the following February. 

 One day I would love to see if we could have a reunion at The Cottage with all of the clan. I think that would make a fabulous Cousins Day! 

Speaking of cousins, here’s a special Cousins Day with Amrit on her birthday:

And some with Cristina: 

Reading stories aloud has to be one of the best parts of being a grandparent. My dad liked it so much, he volunteered at the library to read to other people’s grandkids. I got to watch him in action during one visit. He was reading Dr. Seuss, and he let me fill in some of the parts because he knew I still had it memorized. I’m looking forward to reading aloud to some of my own grandkids one day.  

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 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 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

The Grandparent Project: Part Two

The Grandparent Project is off to a great start!

 

The purpose is to share photos and memories with my family in California and my grown children in the Midwest. Already my sisters have added comments and new photos to the story. Here’s one of my Aunt Sandy holding Grandbaby #1 (Susan) at my sister Sarah’s wedding. Aunt Sandy was not a grandmother yet, but obviously was enjoying the vicarious experience!

I’m beginning to realize that this project is perhaps also for the purpose of preparing myself to be a Grandmother. I will be turning 55 at the end of the summer. I try not to build up expectations, but I can’t deny that I am utterly fascinated by tiny humans related to my biology. Just sayin’, kids.

We left off Part One in January of 1988. There were two grandbabies on record, Susan and Josh. We lived in Pomona, roughly 400 miles south of the Bay Area where the grandparents, aunts, and uncles lived. Visiting them was always a whirlwind of opportunity to incorporate gathering together and engaging in activities we all enjoyed, like going to the San Jose Historical Museum, where Aunt Sarah worked and GranneLouise volunteered…

…or to Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.

There were times when they came down to Pomona, but frankly, the surroundings were not as pleasant. You can see the Interstate sign in the background of one of these photos taken in our front yard. (note Grandpa’s hat…did I tell you that would be a recurring theme?)

At the end of 1988, Grandbaby #3 was born, but for that story, I have to defer to my sister Dharam Kaur.

Meanwhile, I was pregnant with Grandbaby #4, who arrived on March 27, 1989. I was ever so grateful that GranneLouise volunteered to care for Susan and Josh while I delivered Rebecca Louise, that she was able to meet her namesake on the very day she was born, and that she coached me through the first days of mothering three children at once. Grandpa George and Uncle David came down to collect her and meet the new baby about a week later. I clearly remember my mom marveling at my baby’s tiny, curled pinkie finger. “It looks just like a little salad shrimp!” she exclaimed. I laughed aloud in total agreement. What can I say? Discovery is delightful.