The other day I was perusing some of my favorite blogs and came across a post by the lovely and talented Alison Lee [Wishing, Writing] about choosing one’s parenting battles wisely. What an amazingly important lesson to learn! (And one I freely admit I am still learning, after nearly 26 years of parenting.) Anyway, her post reminded me of a similar lesson I received a very long time ago when my oldest was in about the second grade and her two younger sisters were just toddlers. (Daughters four and five were still waiting in the wings back then!)
It all started out on a Saturday morning. After a Friday night birthday celebration, my girls’ Gramma Edith (their Dad’s mom) decided to stay over Friday night. Before turning in, she encouraged me to sleep in and catch up on some much-needed rest. “I’ll fix the girls something for breakfast – don’t worry about anything,” she said. (Gramma Edith, being the mother of four, understood these things all too well.) If you have never had to wrangle a handful of young children 24/7, a few extra hours of sleep on Saturday morning might not mean much to you, and there is really no way I can explain it: if you have, you already know what it means, so I’ll just leave it at that. I just remember being so grateful to her, and I had every intention of sleeping in as long as I could get away with. But sometime around 9am, I was roused by peals of little girl giggles intermingled with rich alto laughter. My natural curiosity took hold, and I had to investigate. I padded quietly down the stairs and turned the corner expecting to see my girls gathered around the table eating yogurt or oatmeal or fruit, or some combination of the three. But what I saw was quite different…
All of the girls – and their Gramma! – had plates and faces and fingers full of leftover chocolate birthday cake!! Cake!! For Breakfast!! Chocolate Cake!!
When they saw me, they look up with alarm and expectation. People do not eat cake for breakfast. They just don’t. This was not new information to them. (My own mother would have rolled over in her grave if she hadn’t still been alive. She still is, by the way.) In the time it takes to swallow, they instantly began countermeasures – all sticky sweet smiles and “We love you, Mommy.” Like that was going to save them. Right. And then I made a decision that changed the course of my personal history forever.
Here’s why: From that moment until the end of time, Gramma Edith will always be, to those three girls, the grandma who let them eat chocolate cake for breakfast. The grandma who didn’t care about how fancy or polished things were. The grandma who cared about them more than she cared about what things looked like or what people are supposed to do or how proper things are. The grandma who does things because they are right, for that moment. Even now, when she comes to visit, my girls are her whole world, and she lives in the present with them every second she is with them. I remember many times, particularly when she came for an extended visit, walking her to her car and noting the exhaustion on her face – she was ready to return to her knitting and her weaving and her quiet home. But for the time she was in our home, she was completely and absolutely dedicated to her granddaughters.
When I grow up, I want to be like my girls’ Gramma Edith. I want to be the grandma who is there for them. And I look forward with great anticipation to the days when my daughters will wake to the sound of giggles ringing through their halls, and come to find at their breakfast table a circle of children – and their Nana – all with chocolate cake on their plates and fingers and faces.
Many thanks to my friend Heather H. for allowing me to use these pictures of her daughter. If only I had the foresight to take pictures of my own girls at the time!!
TOMORROW: An egg-free chocolate cake recipe from the 1940’s that will blow you away!