From the moment I met her, I knew she'd be my person. That person who gets you, loves you unconditionally and becomes part of your inner self. As my first grandchild was gently placed in my arms at three weeks old, I felt it. A spark, a magical spell, a connection of souls. It was in her eyes and mine, we both just knew.
For almost twenty years we’ve gravitated together every chance we can. She was two months old when my son said to me, “we want you to be part of her life.” They packed up, drove a car and rental truck all day and moved in with us for several months. She’d be there on the floor learning to scootch, crawl and pull herself up when I’d get home from work each day. When they moved to their first home, she sat on her stool in the doorway watching for me to pull up the driveway. She stayed overnight at grandma’s house, but could never manage it with her little friends…calling home at midnight for mom or dad to come get her.
She was my buddy at age three, wanting lots of grandma time when her little sister came along. She rode in the back of my car buckled in her pink car seat, singing me songs and telling stories that made my heart soar. She would repeat movie or cartoon lines and we’d both be in giggles cracking each other up.
At age six, her family moved cross country again. My devastation was softened by my daughter’s first born…a grandson. I cuddled and babysat as often as I could, but took time during school breaks to visit my girl in California. It was paradise…her home and school were both on the beach. Sand and sea were their new way of life and we made them ours as well.
This bald, inquisitive baby girl who spoke in sentences by age one and continually kept us all on our toes grew into a smart, confidant, beautiful young lady. At age twelve, she wanted to see snow, to learn about husky dogs and dog sledding. Grandpa and I made it happen. Flying across the snow on a magic carpet-like sleigh, my grandgirl and I laughed and squeezed hands knowing this was one of those memory-making moments in time. In Alaska. In deep snow and freezing temps. Dog mushing.
Retirement meant grandpa and I could head west and spend months in our own little beach house to be near the kids. Sunshine girl was my playmate. We rode bikes, learned to paddleboard and built sand castles together. She’d come over after school, do homework, watch movies, sometimes spend the night. For ten years we did this, sharing birthdays, school events, graduations and winter holidays with our first grandchild.
Summers brought both girls back east to spend vacation time with Gramcracker and Gramps. Swimming in our pool, playing with the cousins, horseback riding, tea parties with blue Kool Aid were top-of-the-list things to do. They loved grandpa’s kitty-shaped pancakes, sprinkler fun, the secret pathway through our yard, chasing fireflies at night and two bedtime stories. One from a book and one about their daddy’s childhood.
As they grew older, the girls took turns coming alone for a week. She came one summer with her driving permit. Oh how grandpa loved riding along as she learned to drive. She was now in high school, but spending time with us was still a priority.
And then suddenly…she was there when I needed her the most. A month after grandpa died, she spent her fall break with me. She sat on my bed and listened. She asked how he and I had met. She held my hand and hugged me. She knew what to say and when to stay quiet. The best kind of person does that. She was there the following year when I decided to sell the house. The ‘Grandma and Grandpa House’ that also embraced four other grandkids had to be sold. She knew it was hard. She felt my pain and sadness. It’s okay, she said, “because I can tell you’re at peace with this decision.”
Her family’s cross-country move to Michigan inspired me to move back too. Leaving my daughter and young grandkids was hard, but I felt a pull to return home. To return to where my story began. To be closer to my son’s teenagers.
I found a condo and soon number one person was my roommate. A college student now, she stayed with me to be closer to campus. I drove her to classes, she took over the kitchen…a far better cook than grandma. We rode bikes on the trails, walked the neighborhood, discovered favorite restaurants and places to shop. A young woman now, she’s intelligent, creative and fearless…a Katniss warrior to this Pollyanna nana. Opposites in many ways and yet we mesh and muddle through things together as only best friends can.
An art student, her painting of my blue beach cruiser with years of salty-air rust forever captured on canvas hangs on my living room wall. Most recently she’s put her creative talents into writing and completed a time travel mystery. Now we count the days. I cherish these moments with her as we face change once again. She’s moving back to California. It’s time.
Her wings are more than ready to leave the family nest.
She’s eager to go and do and be…all on her own.
Go sweet Sunshine Girl.
Go follow your dreams.
Listen to your heart, chase the waves again, feed your soul.
You’ve brightened life for me all these years,
the greatest gift I give you now is a nudge and a hug.
Ich leibe dich.