The Grandparent Project: Part Eleven

This online family photo album is all about visits between my family on the West Coast and my family in the Midwest. So far, I’ve chronicled 1985 through 2000.

In the summer of 2001, we took a road trip to the East Coast. While we were away, my mother-in-law passed away in her apartment. Three months later, the World Trade Center towers were attacked. We did not visit with our California family that year. 

The next summer, though, we had a marvelous visit! I found a trove of photos of the gang of seven cousins enjoying the Bay Area and each other. Here we are at the San Francisco zoo: 

And at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk…

(I know I took one that has all the grandkids together on this beach plus Jim and John and Sarah, too, but I can’t seem to find it.) * My sister Sarah found it!

…and bumming around San Francisco.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we also spent time hiking and horseback riding in the Sierra Nevadas near Mammoth Lakes with the grandparents. I’ll share those pictures in the next post.

Such a sweet deal having relatives to visit in northern California!

The Grandparent Project: Part Ten Addendum

This online family photo project allows me to pool and share snapshots with my children here in the Midwest and my family of origin in California. Yesterday, my sister in San Francisco sent more photos of our visits up to the year 2000. 

Khalsa trip to Cary 1995

I love her caption to this one: “desperate characters skulk at the airport –in 1995, way before TSA”

One year later…

Our basement became the slumber party headquarters, and our two cats got lots of attention. Here’s Phantom in the spotlight:

The next year, the Galassos went west again. Here’s Rebecca celebrating her birthday in San Francisco in 1997, showing off new front teeth and a Kids’ Klub membership card. Cousin Amrit’s birthday was the next day. The Kids Klub was quite creative. Here’s the Headless Emily costume they made:Visits to the Khalsas’ place always included board games, music-making, neighborhood visits to Haight-Ashbury shops, and lots and lots of laughter. I’m so glad and proud that our kids created a safe, happy place of interaction with each other. Having the skill to develop a trustworthy social circle is very important and became life-saving as they grew into their teen years. 

Thanks, Dharam, for sending these great photos!

The Grandparent Project: Part Ten

Family Cluster 

The Grandparent Project is my online family photo album, connecting my West Coast family and my Midwest grown children in shared memories. GranneLouise has seven grandchildren in all, spanning eight years. Here’s how they all looked in the year 2000. So, this is the Millennial generation of our family. 

Like many families, we also have a coincidental grouping of birthdays. Our “Cluster Month” is August. My husband and I, my brother, my brother-in-law, my grandmother…and I think my grandfather, too…all have birthdays in August. I’m going to take a stab at assigning the exact dates, and I’ll let my family correct me where I’m wrong. Jim’s is the 26th, mine is the 21st, David’s is the 18th, John’s is the 25th, Grandma Marion’s was the 1st…and Grandpa David’s was the 23rd. (*confirmed by GranneLouise) 

I also have a cluster of photos from these middle years of our kids’ lives up to the year 2000. If you want to see the gallery of pictures in a slide show of full-sized images, just click on the first one and advance one by one. 

This concludes the first 15 years of grandparenting. The next 17 years saw fewer cross country visits as all our lives got more complicated, so my photo records of those years are pretty sparse, but the stories are pivotal. Moving toward adulthood brought challenges and opportunities that shaped the character and personality of each of these young people. I think they’re all super special, and I’ll share that in the next Grandparent Project post. 

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

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.