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…

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