Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grandmotherly Love

I’m writing this column from my parents’ house in Florida. My daughter and I arrived yesterday. From the moment the plane touched down, my daughter was catapulted into a world of unfamiliar faces and voices and hands that want to cuddle her.

She takes it all in stride, and I believe I have an assortment of Newfoundland grannies to thank for this.

We meet these lovely grandmothers everywhere. Some of the more popular grandmother spots are the exit and entrances of craft fairs, The Clarenville Inn during bus tour season, the check out aisle at Walmart in the middle of the afternoon, the waiting area at the airport, and Rod’s on a Sunday morning.

These women see my daughter and gush over her with such gusto that my proud mother heart hurts.

My baby smiles magnanimously.  She revels in the attention, but plays it cool, by clapping her hands, shyly looking away, and then engaging in a quick game of peek-a-boo.

She has become so accustomed to getting attention when she is out that she is miffed when people around her don’t engage.  She offers her drooly grin with its three little teeth, and when the smile is not reciprocated she gurgles to me in exasperation and points her finger at the offending person.

But this never occurs when the grandmothers are around.

They greet her with the phrase, “Aren’t you gorgeous!”

Then the cooing, leg pinching, cheek tickling and rapturous praise begins. 

When it is over, the grandmothers all tell me about the grandchildren they have in provinces far away, or the children working abroad on the verge of becoming a parent.

I can hear the ache in their voices, and I understand that the attention being lavished upon my daughter is really just a moment for them to exercise some of that pent up grandmotherly love.

It is then my turn to gush. I listen to them share the recent milestones their grandchildren attained, and tell them how handsome and smart their grandchildren must be based what they describe to me.

For three minutes we all engage in a mutually beneficial relationship.  With her grandmothers far away, my daughter experiences what it is like to bask in the unfettered adoration a beloved grandchild can feel. With their grandchildren far away, these grandmothers can pretend that the loving smiles my daughter gives them are the same as the ones they’d receive from their own grandchildren.

Of course she can’t replace their actual grandchildren, or vice versa, but together they each fill a little part of the tear distance rends in the heart.

I used to worry that coming home to my big, loud, in-your-face family would be scary for my daughter after our quiet months in Newfoundland, but thanks to the kindness and the enthusiasm of these women, my daughter associates new faces with love.

As I type this, I watch my daughter play on a swing erected especially for her in her grandmother’s back yard. She shrieks with glee every time she is pushed, and reaches her hands out to touch her grandmother’s face.  

I pray that this holiday season, I’m not the only one experiencing these treasured moments with my far away family.

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