Monday, June 4, 2012


Sorry to hear about your grandma.  She was awe inspiring.

My fetish for a particular grandma ideal is alive and well.  I still sometimes poke through thrift stores searching for the remnants of an age gone by.  Aprons.  Lace.  Quilts.  Cookie cutters.  Canning jars.  I know it's all bullshit but I can't help myself.

In sunny San Diego the thrifting is not as good.  Most of the grandma transplants inhabit second life mobile homes and prefer yoga and beach walking to caring for grandbabies.  They don't bake and might even be vegans!  Do they visit their grandchildren on the holidays or host them here for a visit to the beach?  Where would the children sleep in the mobile trailers?  The image confuses me -- the lack of coziness painful.

My own grandmothers are nothing like the story book version in my head.  My Grandma Helen cooks with Campbells soup and reads bad romance novels.  She doesn't like to sew and is luke warm on nurturing in general.  I love her fiercely but would never ask her for a favor.  My Grandma Lorraine lives in an Arizona trailer park that allows two weekends a year for children to visit the premises.  She likes shuffle board and gambling.  We never visit.  Going back a generation I remember my Great Grandma Mildred smoking long brown Moore cigarettes and drinking luke warm coffee well into her hundreds.  She could garden and can with the best of 'em but failed to take an interest in anything I ever did.  It stings a bit.  The gap between what I wanted and what I got.

The complete indifference my parents display for my own children slips the ideal further afield.  Somehow I know they feel it, their total failure to connect with what is right in front of them, the distance much further than a life across the country.  My parents (and in laws) continuously check in on  facebook or cspan for meaning while spending time together.  (And that generation says we are addicted to social media.)  They don't twitter but somehow they are staring at a screen while grandchildren take their first steps or try to show them a drawing.  They are absent even when present.  I want to shake them but somehow together we find solace in taking photos of memories for facebook.

Their visits feel like poking at a wound.  The vague memory of a mother and a giant 1980s mobile phone and an empty fridge.  Something about that. 

Right now I am teaching Charlie about eye contact.  Really I am trying to teach him about being present, about paying attention to who is there at the moment.  It occurs to me that my own behavior needs tweaking.  I turn off my phone.  I watch myself.

 Almost nothing else is possible if you really want to be present for your kids.  Not really.  None of us can multitask.  I am particularly bad at it.

You sure as hell can't quilt or bake or make jelly or any of those storybook grandma things I find appealing. It doesn't matter if it's facebook or lace making.  Not really.  We all want desperately to escape.  I struggle.  I have stopped thrifting.  I try to only write at night or do yoga before the kids awake.

And in regards to your last post...  maybe I am an entrepreneur or maybe an artist or maybe a fill in the blank.  It doesn't matter to me really.  Yes money needs to come in the house to survive, but beyond that I don't care much.  My path is to try and be an attentive mom.  That's all.  I want to be the kind of parent (and grandparent) who is around and useful and can make eye contact.  This may sound easy and simplistic, and god love the people who find this so, but for me it means unlearning generations of failure and neglect.  It means giving up on storybook idealism.   I want to undo the cycle.  I just do.  And it's crazy hard.

I cried when I read your grandmother's obituary.  I was going to put a link here on the blog but I thought maybe you should decide if that's appropriate.  I cried particularly here,

Marilyn loved babies. Nothing delighted her as much as rocking, reading to, and caring
for the babies in her family. She never forgot a grandchild’s birthday and attended many of their
performances, school and sporting events. 
Now that's a good thing to have written about you at the end of the day.  That's the best.

I will report that attentiveness has gotten easier since moving to San Diego.  I find it much simpler to focus in on family without all the distractions of an extended community.  Maybe this has more to say about my own introverted qualities, but I definitely find more delight in parenting outside of the hubbub of Madison and other adult friendships.  I was interested in your Grandma Marilyn's experience being so very different from my own.  She found community and nurturing synonymous.  How lucky.  Perhaps this is where some of your own instincts arise MB?

I have found myself at many parks with Charlie over the past year.  The mom groups seated together on the grass always interest me because they resemble the old me, the Madison me.  The moms sort of ignore their kids, talking fast with their girlfriends (sometimes about their own kids who are present), desperate it seems to communicate all the minutia of their lives.  Their general repose is the opposite of what I want.  It is delightful to be at a park with your child.  It is delightful to talk with friends.  It is really hard to do both things at once delightfully.  The distraction of friendships is the same as looking away at your phone.  It is trying to be absent and present at the same time.  It seems impossible even though I did it through ten years of parenting.  I am happy that I have had this last year with Charlie to show him my best self.  I believe I will be working on all this for a lifetime.

Please slap me if when I am an old grandma I have moved away from my children to an ashram or some such bullshit. 

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