Hurry Up! …oh, no wait…slow down, please…

How many times, over my years as the Nana-Next-Door, did I exasperatedly say, likely in a raised voice, “hurry up” or “get your shoes on” or “I told you to get your coat” or any of these sorts of expressions that parents and grandparents utter in the days of the years that make a life…but today, no, today is different… I feel sorry for rushing, sorry for often being in a hurry, or annoyed or fussing over time, and a clock…back then, did it really matter if we were late for the pre-school drop off?? I did then, I do now, work for myself, there was no time clock for me to punch, there was no boss waiting for me to open the doors, if we were late for pre-school drop off and then I was late to drop off the little one to my mom and dad’s house after, back in those days, before I then went to work, who really cared?? What did it really matter?? NOW it’s too late…all of my rushing and worry and hurry, what was it good for?? Today I think, slow down please, and I am sorry for rushing you when I rushed you because now I want you to slow down for me, but you are all revved up with a whole world in front of you…

Today the girl I call SWEET-Ti is 17 years old. SO many songs about 17…Young and Sweet only seventeen and a dancing queen, just like a white winged dove on the edge of seventeen, and the way she looks is way beyond compare, and seriously, whatever you do, don’t listen to the one by Winger, ‘She’s only 17’ or you will want to lock your child (or grandchild) in the attic, and Janis Ian’s song “Seventeen” will break your heart… Julie Andrews had it right, ‘Eager young lads and rogues and cads will offer you food and wine’ …oh, it’s both a happy and weary day for me today. I can still remember so clearly, driving down to North Carolina after work on a Thursday in later spring, or maybe early summer of 2005 to paint the nursery where this baby was going to sleep, and as I got onto I95 north that Sunday, after a weekend of painting and baby’s-bedroom preparations, late in the afternoon, as the sun began to move around to my driver’s side window, tears flowing until I got to Virginia…I just could not even believe that this baby was going to be living in North Carolina and I was going to be here in south Jersey…How would I be able to live with a grandbaby 8 hours away??!!

AND so, I took a month off of work, in July no less, my only busy time of year, to go tend to things when she was born…I wanted to help my daughter fall into motherhood, and I figured it would help her young marriage, to not have the stress, sleeplessness, and worries and exhaustion that newborn infants bring, but mostly I wanted to bond with that baby. The way I saw it was this; if I am the one who gives her her night time feedings and talks to her in the dark on the sofa, and puts her in soft fresh clothes, & eases her discomfort and soothes her tummy burps, then she will know who I am, even if she only sees me a couple times a year…this was my train of thought, to help with her first four weeks of life so that somehow her body and her brain would KNOW me for all of her life. I remember thinking that once she was a few months old I would have my daughter call me and I would read out loud to the baby over the phone at bedtime, reading after bath and before bed was a ritual I had with my daughter until she was practically in middle school and something that mattered, still matters to me, and I thought that I would be fine with reading over the phone to her for all of my life. Little did I know that three years later I would be her next door neighbor! Then I never could have even dreamed of this amazing experience, to be a Nana-Next-Door, oh!!! how many nights, over how many years, I walked a few hundred feet down the driveway to read to her at bedtime…truly one of the greatest joys of my adult life!

She gets her driver’s license tomorrow, and I will be, for the most part, just a person in her periphery. I understand this, this is part of the plan, the role I played was to help my daughter raise her daughters, that was why we built our houses next door to each other, and so I knew the day was coming that she would be off on her own, but it still feels heavy in my heart. I suppose much of my “job” is done, again. We have talked about very important things, and deeply discussed the often uncomfortable discussions and have as open a narrative as one could wish for with a young woman in today’s world, so there’s that. We don’t like much of the same music, but we do like a lot of the same food, and we both love lying in the sun and the beach, and a good yoga session, and she has recently, after a long break, fallen back in love with reading…so we have much in common and I hope that lasts for all of my years left on this earth.

Her eyes are still the same chestnut brown as they were at birth, and she has that same caramel skin, and her snaggle tooth that was so precious as a toddler, grew into a perfect smile, with the help of a local and well loved orthodontist, and when I look at her face I still see the face I used to see in the dark, with the moon shimmering through the sheers on the windows, as we sat on the sofa in the wee hours, for those four weeks, figuring each other out…the face is the same, just matured now I guess, changed but not, that face I could not stop gazing upon for hours and hours and hours during her first month here on earth… It’s a little bit funny, when I think of that first month knowing her, I was in no rush whatsoever to do anything…all I did was dote on her needs and delight in her existence.

I was in no hurry to have her fall asleep, or eat, or get bathed, or burp, or poop, or whatever kinds of things you want an infant to get on with, so you can get on with your day, or get back to bed and try to get some sleep, when you are the mother…no, when you are the Nana of a newborn you really have plenty of time…all the time in the world…and I suppose I am regretting all the times I rushed her during the last many years, but will try now, today at least, to be present in today and I’ll focus my attention to the first 31 days she existed when I gave her every second of my time, and every ounce of my energy, and every beat of my heart. She was my whole world for a whole month, and even though I am not all that important to her now, I think it is still deep within her, that knowledge of knowing how deeply I loved her and still love her. Sometimes when she looks at me, and is not rolling her eyes, or bothered by my old fashioned comments, I feel like she remembers our bonding hours all those years ago, like it’s deep within the cells of who she is, our time together became a part of who she is…All the times I rushed her to hurry up, I just did not realize I guess, that the time I would wish her to slow down would be here so quickly…