Of course we know it happens. It happened to us, for goodness sakes! Then, if we had children of our own, or became aunties or uncles (blood or otherwise) it happened again. And then, if we were lucky enough to become grandparents or great-aunties/uncles? Well, dammit, it happened all over again.
“Gonna have to put a brick on your head,” my late father-in-law used to say, sizing up a grandkid after another growth spurt, another birthday.
You want them to have the birthdays, but geez, do they have to have them every few months?!
We start off as adorable babies that adults can’t get enough of. Then we turn into gangly humans that eat all the food, leave mounds of dirty laundry everywhere, and have strong opinions – backed by tremendous mood swings – that we’ll share loudly with anyone caring to listen.
Here’s where my maternal grandfather Arch might’ve offered this insight: “I should have raised pigs. At least I’d have pork in the fall.” Apparently he loved pork. Another appropriate Arch-ism: “Kids today aren’t raised up. They’re dragged up.”
Way prior to the dragging? That’s where nostalgia lives. The good old days; we want them back. They’re like precious images of Christmas, yes? Visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, sweet and sticky. The best thing we ever tasted.
I know all about this. iPhone serves up the old pictures on the regular. Oldest granddaughter Simone, 3, in her red coat on the beach, arms open to all possibilities, excited for her first Canada Day fireworks. Her sister Naomi, 3, at their old house, hands clenched, smiling like crazy, short blonde hair all wispy. (My daughter and son-in-law thought they had some radical accepting to do when she told them she was a boy named Tom. Turned out Simone told her she was a boy, named Tom, because her hair was so short she must be a boy.) And there’s my grandson Beau, 4, cheeks kissed by the sun, smiling so hard his eyes are slits, with me and his older sisters in front of one of the gazillion birthday cakes I’ve enjoyed over the years.
The good old days.
To get this feeling, back in the good old days, you’d have to peruse old photo albums, or clean a room. I remember when my kids were about the grandkids’ ages – 11, 9, 7 – I decided to tackle our messy home office while the kids were at school. There were the old pictures of them as toddlers. Where did the time go? I sifted through them – Jetanne with her whimsical curls, Randelle with her red cheeks and wicked grin, Jay all pudgy and cuddly. I stopped cleaning to reminisce, cry. I wrote a poem about motherhood: “A picture is found amid the refuse . . .”
But are the good old days ever as good as those sugar plum memories? For one thing, my three toddlers would never have let me attempt to clean that room, peruse pictures, shed motherly tears. Those days were a hectic blur of showering as fast as I could with the three of them playing/fighting, locked into the bathroom with me. Diaper changes. The “L” word – laundry. Very little sleep. Hearing “Can’t she control her children?” behind me as I plunked groceries on the belt, three kids hanging off of stanchions they always used to have there. Why the stanchions? Me, hair wild, red-faced, turning and admitting, “No. I can’t.”
Perhaps this is why babies must grow up? So their mothers can eventually get some sleep, cobble together some sort of a second life for themselves?
But you have these moments, mostly when the house is quiet, when they’re not around. And it felt like something different, something bordering on perfection. The pitter-patter of wee feet. The beautiful, happy, playing children.
And even though my grandkids are older now, I felt it when I arrived at the cottage recently. Evidence. They were here. A sign, hanging on a door. “Visiting ours!” In purple marker. The “H”, to make it “Hours” is in black pen, as are three decorative hearts. The “H” proves they still need us guiding them. There are two meanings behind this word that sounds the same. One is “belonging to”. One denotes time. Visiting ours during visiting hours.
They are ours, in all the various shapes and sizes their bodies will inhabit throughout life. And the hours zip by so fast, we must treasure them all – loud and quiet, chaotic and still.
On the back of the sign? “Stay out!” No problem with the spelling – or meaning – there. They’re growing up, gaining independence, needing us less and less as they race toward a time when nostalgia will seek them out.