Sunday, March 18, 2012

“When birds burp, it must taste like bugs.” ~~ Watterson

Being a parent has been rewarding in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is the comfort of knowing my daughters will be hovering over me, anxious to scrub my dentures and cut my toenails when I am old and feeble.  However, after Leslie and Ryan became parents themselves, I learned the ultimate, all-time best part of being a parent is the joy of guilt-free grandchild spoiling.  “Have another cookie, Emerson.  What?!  Only one Popsicle, Myra?   Are you sure, Pierce?  Don’t you want whipped cream along with the chocolate and sprinkles on your ice cream?”   

In order to fulfill my duty as a Nada I FINALLY finished a baby quilt for Pierce.

Technically, it isn’t really a baby quilt anymore since he’s almost five years old but it’s not because I hadn't been working hard on it.

It’s just that I couldn’t start Pierce’s quilt until I’d finished Myra’s ...

which I couldn’t start until I’d finished Emerson’s. And it takes me forever to make a quilt because sewing machines hate me almost as much as I hate them, so I make my quilts completely by hand which limits the length of time I can quilt during a sitting because after a kajillion pinpricks in my fingers they start bleeding.   And even though blood comes off nicely with a little spit and rubbing I only have so much spit.  Anyway, as I’ve been pricking and bleeding and spitting and rubbing on Pierce’s quilt, I’ve been thinking about grandkids and kids and parenting.

Back when I told my parents I was pregnant with their first grandchild I remember seeing surprised faces and then big grins.  The big grins surprised me ― until I had grandchildren of my own.  The surprised look however, was easy to understand because during my first six years of marriage I had repeatedly stated I was “never going to have children.”  Turns out my biological clock and the baby lust gene had conspired together to make a liar out of me.  Dean was so busy trying to get through school I don’t think he realized completely that whether or not he wanted to be a father had no bearing on the matter at hand.

At least he had control over one thing ― the sex of this new human being I felt compelled to create. Not that I didn't wish I could also control the gender of this future child.  I was (and still am) a control freak but that wasn't the only reason.  It was just that I didn’t know a lot about little boys and they kind of scared me, so I wanted my babies to be girls.  Thanks to the wonder of magic ― the slow rotation of my wedding ring suspended from a string above my belly (Leslie) and a colorless concoction of urine and draino (Abby) ― I knew early on that I would be having girls.

I already knew how I wanted to raise my girls because previous to being infected with baby lust I’d watched women burning their bras on the news and listened to Helen Reddy roar.  I’d been told that women were not only equal to men; they had the right to control their own bodies.  And the pill was there to help.  I wasn’t one of those bra-burning feminists (I couldn’t burn what I didn’t own) but I was determined my daughters would believe they were equal to their male counterparts.   I wanted them to open themselves to love and find someone to share their lives with, but I also wanted them to have the skills to stand on their own if they needed or chose to.  I wanted to raise happy, intelligent, secure and open-minded young women who, when the time came, would be confident enough to dive head first out of the nest, spread their wings, fly off and build their own nests.   And dang it, long before I was ready, faces beaming, they did just that.  But even though my nest was empty except for a diminished bank account, bathroom drains clogged with long hair, and walls shiny from hairspray, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And then … there were grandchildren.

Leslie and Ryan were more considerate than I had been and didn’t make us wait six years for our first, then second grandchild.   Abby and Jorge were just as considerate.  Their nest just happens to be filled with an iguana hunting cat and dog.  And then one day Leslie called to say Emerson and Myra were going to have a brother.   I still didn’t know anything about little boys so I was a little anxious.  I knew how to play with little girls and dogs and cats but my only experience with little boys was the brother I did my best to avoid.  When I was writing my angst-ridden thoughts in a diary, he was scribbling on the wall.  While my pale, white-knuckled father rode along as I was learning to drive, my brother was “burning” rubber on his bike.  The only time I remember playing with him was the time I yelled, “Hey, Mikey!  Come over and I’ll lie on my back, you sit on my feet and I’ll shoot you into the air like a rocket.”  That was actually quite a bit of fun  ―  until he broke his arm.

I was worried I wouldn’t know how to play with this new grandson.  It was one thing to break my brother’s arm but it would be quite another if I had to tell Leslie I had snapped her son’s arm in two.  Ryan's mom told me all I needed to know was how to push a toy car back and forth and say “vroom! vroom!”  It turned out she was right.  I even added “beep! beep!”  Now, after almost five years of playing with Pierce I can say with complete confidence that playing with little boys is absolutely, no doubt about it, positively, unequivocally  ―  completely different than playing with girls.  Every stick is a sword or a gun, every towel is a superhero cape, every rock is a projectile, every stair/table/couch/chair is a launching pad.  Every tree/leg/banister/fence/wall/doorway must be scaled.  And absolutely everything you do requires its own unique sound effect.  Everything.  My sound effects repertoire now includes planes taking off and landing, monsters roaring, dinosaurs doing whatever dinosaurs do, pirates arrrrrging, guns shooting, super heroes flying, trucks careening around corners, trains choo-chooing and oh, gosh, the list is endless.  If I don’t know how to make a sound Pierce shows me.  We’re doing okay.

Years from now, when it's still too soon for Leslie and Ryan, but exactly the right time for Emerson and Myra and Pierce, they will launch themselves into the world and all the adventures it has to offer. They will soar and dip and dive with joy and excitement just like the Wren, and the Jay and the Kestrel.  Leslie and Ryan will watch with hearts simultaneously bursting with pride and aching with loss, just like we did.  And maybe some day they will also have big grins on their faces, just like we did.  I only hope all of their birdies choose to build their nests a little lot closer than Ecuador. 

There are 2 lasting bequests we can give our children; one is roots.  The other is wings. ~ Hodding Carter, Jr.



Art Elser said...

What wonderful gifts for your grandchildren, Cathy. And I really love that Pierce's quilt has that beautiful kestrel on it. I love kestrels. Such wonderfully colored birds with their bright rusty backs and the male's slate gray wings. They are wonderful fliers and clean up the mice and grasshoppers around the fence lines.

Wow!! A seamstress as well as a humorist, sound effects guru, and GIS wizard. Will you make sure that Al and Les read this post. Wouldn't mind practicing my sound effects or helping a granddaughter learn how to drive.

Leslie said...

Thanks for making me tear was a beautiful post.

Abby said...

Urine and draino?? Thanks Mom.

Nice job on the quilts. I like how they seem to match each child's personality.

Navy and Maggie love having you as a Nada.