By Nancy Eder, a member of Get Your Wordsworth
They say it’s not the amount of time you spend with someone but the quality of the time spent that makes the difference. While it might sound good, in reality I don’t find too much truth in practice. To build a relationship requires time together and shared experiences. There ought’a be a law.
Three thousand air miles is too long a way from people you love. A distance in both time and space to miss the obvious daily life, the friends, and the activities of three young girls who are sisters as well as my granddaughters.
Emma the eldest, is possibly the most complex. At the tender age of twelve she’s a young kid who is also blossoming into a lovely teenager long, lean and pretty. Like her younger sisters, she has let her long hair grow over ten inches so that it can be cut and contributed to ‘Locks for Love,’ an organization that donates hair to children who are seriously ill. She babysits in the neighborhood, and I hear the beneficiaries of her service are crazy about her.
Yet in other ways she’s very self involved and going through a bit of withdrawal from grandparents. Who needs grandparents? Peer group is the focus of her age group, so it’s nothing abnormal afoot here. I’ve just arrived for a scant three and a half day visit from New York and she’s just too busy for the likes of me. As she glides out the door to spend time at a girlfriend’s house, her over-the-shoulder throw away line, ’love you,’ is no reassurance. It’s an exit.
Emma attends a girls’ middle school with 18 preadolescents in each of three grades. She’s in 7th grade. My son has assured me that she’s very happy there. Her teachers are impressed that she’s made great strides in learning to take risks. But with me, Emma proceeds cautiously and I wasn’t able in three days to get more than four-word answers to any query about her classes or friends. . . much less able to tear her away from her recently acquired IPad games.
An avid reader in her single digit days, she mumbled something about a book that she had to read for school, but when asked what it was about, Emma said, “Grandma, I’m doing my homework.” Tune in in another six years I thought to myself. Only when Emma was about to go out to a gymnastics practice was she animated and eager to talk to me, As she lifted her full body weight up on the doorway pull up bar, she voluntarily engaged me in minimal conversation. “Would you like to see my gymnastics routine?” Of course, I’d love to. Then I proceeded to watch her twist and leap and hang precipitously defying gravity and turning her lithe frame into a paperclip shape. Without an extra ounce of fat or protruding muscle Emma can effortlessly raise herself and contort into different poses, walk on all fours in a backbend like a wildcat after prey, and leap across the floor like a gazelle. She does know how to smile broadly after such feats of physical exertion, but at other times her face is down and petulant. A young girl turning into a teenager is going through a difficult time of life. And it doesn’t make for an easy time for anyone in her path.
Addie turned ten on November 13th. She has similar physical attributes to Emma. . . slender and strong with a slightly more athletic jaunt to her step. She’s still chatty with me probably more than either of her sisters. She has a scattering of freckles across her nose. Newly acquired braces on her upper teeth have already straightened out a couple of crooked ones.
Things come easily to Addie: she’s a natural soccer and softball player advanced for a ten year old. She’s especially adept in whatever sport she attempts and you can see her mind work as she anticipates her opponent’s every move. She was an avid reader, though since the IPad has entered the home, she seems to be taken with it. Addie has very well developed verbal and social skills which she acquired as a toddler probably in competition with her physically stronger twin, Rachel. She’s terrific at word and number games and I think that she will shine at whatever she selects to work at.
Rachel has black shiny hair and an Irish creamy complexion. She is the shy one but she is also the girl who works the hardest for what she gets. She has been playing the violin now for a couple of years and plugs away until she gets the right notes. What comes easy to Addie will come to Rachel as she works at it. She too is an avid and capable athlete. Rachel is less willing to express her opinions and waits to hear what Addie thinks.
Ray also displays innate artistic talents. Rachel read a story out loud to me about the painter, Georgia O’Keefe, and then decided to draw a picture in the manner of O’Keefe. This full page orange and yellow poppy crayon drawing now fills a frame on my kitchen wall. Rachel still makes the time or has the interest in talking with me.
The weather in Seattle was against us. It was bonechilling cold and damp. The morning after my arrival, the first cotton snowflakes started filling the skies and by the afternoon the black clouds made it look like it was evening. Traffic was suspended on major roads and since the area around their home is hilly, my planned excursion to the movies with the girls was cancelled. Not being a snowbunny, I wrapped myself around a glass of white wine, stood by the stove and helped my son chop onions and garlic in preparation for a chicken dinner rather than standing outside in the slush to watch snowball fights. The girls and I had no chance to do anything on our own on this MLK weekend when they were out of school.
While I felt a bit rejected and redundant, I realize that their behavior is not about me. The kids are just being kids. This is about normal children growing up. But it is also about not being around during all kinds of weather, not having the girls close enough to come to my kitchen to bake cookies and drink cocoa.
In part this is about the alienation we all go through in growing up. But it saddens me to know that my relationship with the Seattle girls will be unlike the close one I have with Anya and Eliza who live four floors below me.
In the best of all worlds with me as president, there would be several provisions made into law:
1. children can live no further than fifty miles or one hour’s train distance from their parents.
2. children and grandchildren are not permitted to live outside the state in which their grandparents reside.
3. grandparents who desire to be close to their grandchildren should have mandatory and complete access to them up to the age of at least five years.
Yup, in the ideal world, there ought’a be a law.