Nana next door

These last 13 years have been counted by skinned knees, thorns and splinters, belly laughs, trampoline flips and cartwheels, jelly fish and bee stings, greenhead bites, training wheels to rollerskates, scars & bumps and bruises…they don’t get skinned knees anymore, nobody bounces on the trampoline anymore…nobody plays store, plays orphanage, plays detective, plays salon, or plays school anymore…the imaginative make believe magic of childhood has not happened in these walls for a couple of years now…nobody dances on the bench anymore, watching herself in the mirror across the room with pretend microphones in their hands…these girls have watched their mother go from bank teller to college student to teacher, and watched her unravel and reboot through two divorces…inside these four walls and under this silver roof, my home has been a place for peace for my granddaughters, through every upset that went on in their walls, and disturbed their peace under their roof next door, my home has been a place for them to find solace…for all intents and purposes, “childhood” as we all define it, for these girls who are the center of my world, is over…

The “baby” of this family, whose nickname has always been “Bug” and who I often call The Little Blonde Wonder who seems to thrive on straight A grades and learning, starts her freshman year of high school, made the varsity cheerleading squad, and is now the tallest of us all. Her sister, the first “baby,” the brunette bombshell who I call Sweet-Ti who was a dancer, until the pandemic, and used to dance like her life depended on it, will be in 12th grade, is contemplating what kind of career she might enjoy working towards, and is going to be driving them to school…a senior and a freshman, finally in the same school again, and for the last time…

The walk down the long driveway to catch the bus as the sun rose each morning behind the cedar trees beyond the bay, and my truck idling at the base of the driveway in the late afternoons to greet smiling little girls, joyfully waving an art project, or an A+ test paper, as they leaped from the bus at the end of the school day, is no longer going to be part of my life…my parting morning words of affirmation, every day, year after year, “Do good work, and be kind” is silenced this year. What I have tried to instill into these girls either has become part of the fabric of who they are or it fell on deaf ears. Time will tell. I am the Nana next door and my “job” is just about over.

As I started to clean the upstairs bathroom in the loft the other day I had a moment of confusion, when I said to myself, “why is the step stool up here” beside the vanity…and in that split second my brain reminded me that I had the second step stool up there because when the children slept over they needed it to reach the sink to brush their teeth…it’s not that I have not noticed the step stool still there over these last years, it’s just that, I suppose I did not think about the fact that not one foot had stepped upon it for years every time I picked it up when I vacuumed…it just was under the sink waiting for a little girl to need it, and that day I took it out to the garage. It’s those little things that kick me in the gut sometimes, the finality of it all…

I went through ALL of the books in the loft a few years ago and again a few weeks ago…some I simply just could not part with and won’t…some were mine from when I was little, some my daughter’s, and some just so beautifully illustrated and with words like magic, I just can’t imagine them in some other house or a recycle bin, so they will remain on the bookshelf until I am dead I suppose. I have gone through the crayons, colored pencils, and markers…I have gone through the pads of drawing paper and coloring books and I have emptied my upstairs of all that I can handle, some of the remnants of childhood just need to remain, though I’m not sure why… maybe because it makes me feel younger than I am…

I know women my age who have children younger than my grandchildren, so I know that I am not old, but some days I feel it…like this weekend, a heavy feeling, a loss if you will, that my Nana-ing duties are rapidly coming to an end and then what am I?? My years of being a Nana Next Door were, are, probably the most important years of my life, so it begs the questions, “what will you do, who will you be, in these next chapters of YOUR life??” I have spent nearly 37 years mothering…my daughter will soon be 37 and if my mom reads this she will chuckle and think, “what the heck?! how do you think I feel I have been mothering for almost 55 years!!” caring for another, others, putting the needs of other people ahead of my own…the women’s unpaid work of this life, doing and doing and doing for people because you love them, and are, at least when it involves the children, trying to help them to blossom into their full potential, trying to guide them by your words and by your examples of how to be the best possible human they can be…

It’s so much on my mind, this uncertainty…and I am well aware, I am still often needed, there are things that the girls and my daughter will need of me and need me to do FOR them, it’s not that I feel useless in any way, but this particular role, this event that happened to me, becoming a Nana to these girls, was, it turns out, one of the best things that ever happened to me…If I open my mind to possibilities that I had not really before considered, perhaps it is soon time for me to blossom into my own full potential, that maybe I had put my own blossoming on the back burner while I was so busy mothering and nana-ing…THIS is a rather exciting revelation…that as the children next door need me less and less, perhaps I can become me more and more…

carousels of time

I am well aware that autumn is not arriving until September 22, but if you have ever been a parent, or around children, or know people who are teachers, you know that Labor Day, especially here at the Jersey shore, marks, for the most part, the end of the summer…and Labor Day is this week and so to me the end of summer is now…It is not time for pumpkins & clove & spice, but it is time for summer to be over…Last night, hours ahead of time, I turned my wall calendar to September and I was feeling pretty excited to be honest, to just be done with this summer…I have not been once to the beach, or watched a sunset or a sunrise, and other than seeing Elton John, no special nights that go down in my HERstory as ones to remember fondly…This was not a good summer and it is fine by me to say “ta-ta” to it!

I did not once walk to the edge of the sand and look out at the horizon line and remind myself that I am very small, my life and my problems are very small, and the world is so big, and so many people I know have big problems and worries that I myself do not. I did not once walk into the crashing waves that smack into your shins with so much force that you have to adjust your balance and squeeze your toes. I did not once take a walk along the shore line and step on sharp unseen broken shells. I did not once fall asleep under the bright sun in my rusty, but useful, beach chair. I did not once utter my pretend narrative, to try to save my $10 for the daily fee by saying, “oh my husband has the beach badges and is walking down to meet me shortly” which, every past season that I say it, makes me feel bad for lying, as I have neither a husband nor a beach badge, but I also hate to spend $10 to sit for three hours in the sun at the beach!

I know people who this summer suffered terrible health scares and diagnoses with frighteningly uncertain outcomes, I know people who unexpectedly had to move, I know people who were blindsided by divorce and break-ups, I know people who found out secret bad things about people they care for & I know people who lost loved ones…I know people who have real problems, big problems, that I myself do not. I am a very “bright minded” person in that I am forever looking for silver linings, the positive perspective, the good in others and in difficult situations or bleak circumstances…always optimistic, always looking for some smidgen of joy, but still, even bright and silver and positive people can sometimes feel bad, and it’s okay.

Today’s blog is a permission slip of sorts; If you feel bad or sad or mad, then feel it. You have permission to feel blah or blue or bereft, even if you normally are a silver lining seeker such as I. You can’t hide from those feelings, those emotions will find a way to creep in and around all of your up-beat-ness, so you might as well address the feelings when they come upon your spirit because the carousel of time just keeps turning and spinning and going round and round, and ignoring the heavy feelings that you feel does not make them “less” or lighter. I think it’s far better to acknowledge the feelings such as, “I think like this has been a really shit of a summer” and work around the thoughts that make you feel this way and then move on from them. You want to let the feelings enter, wash them clean, and then send them right out the door…they are not welcome to linger in your home/head space.

My work is as busy as ever and I work for extraordinarily lovely people, my health is good despite post hysterectomy middle-aged overweightness, I have really good friends and so many different levels of friendships from all different corners of my world, the yoga studios did not close, I got to swim in my daughter’s beautiful pool and lay in the sun a couple of times with her and have great conversations, my home is beautiful and pretty well maintained, despite the fact that I still have two back sides of the house and garage and the shed still to paint, to the eyes of the Amazon delivery van driver and my new UPS delivery man, the house is pretty well maintained and beautiful, but that’s a whole different blog…how the house painter does not get her house painted!! anyway…I got to see the hummingbirds eat at my dining room window feeder every day, I got to see baby deer and bunnies day after day in my west side yard, and luna moths and butterflies & dragonflies of many colors in and out of my shrubs, bushes, flowers, and trees…all things that make me happy about this little neck of woods near the bay that I call home. AND SO it’s not been any one thing that feels bad, or is bad, about this summer, no definitive event or experience or relationship that has been sour, but I did not walk the boardwalk, I did not go to a festival or a fair, I did not go to a bar-b-q, I did no memory making and here at the shore, memories are made in the summer because the winters can be so bitter and gray and so really the overall feeling for me is this; I am glad summer is over and I am looking forward to the next season of my life…I am going to make the very best of what the fall and winter has to offer me and I am glad this chapter will soon come to a close, and I won’t wish to reread it.