This year Crystal (six) started Kindergarten. On the days I take care of her and her younger brother, Jordan (three and a half), I only see her briefly in the mornings when I get her ready for school, then after school from noon until 3:30 when my daughter-in-law picks them up. I get more one-on-one time with Jordan now, which is good, but I miss the time I used to have with Crystal. She is beginning to move away from me now, into the world of school and peers.
Recently the Pacific Northwest where we live was hit by a major snow storm. Our area of the north Puget Sound is usually protected from fierce winter storms, but every so often weather patterns shift, and we are hit with a storm out of the Arctic north. This storm buries my car under a foot of snow. And school is cancelled – a Snow Day.
My daughter-in-law still has to work, as does my son, and so they brave the icy roads and drop off the kids (still in their pajamas) early at my house – 6:15 am. I bring the kids upstairs to my big bed and crawl in with them. I don’t know if it will work, but it does. We all fall back to sleep and wake up an hour later, a bit disoriented, but refreshed.
Jordan plays with his cars while Crystal and I take a shower together. We have a double headed shower with room for two people. It is one of Crystal’s favorite things to do when we have a sleep-over. She gets her own shower nozzle and so do I. After our shower we do yoga together - Salutation to the Sun. I teach her how to say Namaste with hands touching in front of her heart and what it means: "The light (self) in me honors the light (self) in you." We all get dressed and go downstairs.
We feed the cats and dogs together, then we have our own breakfast: cereal for Jordan and Crystal and a fruit smoothie for me. I offer to turn on Sprout or Noggin, but both Jordan and Crystal say no. They watch a lot of TV and videos at home. At my house they choose to keep the TV off most of the time.
We wander back upstairs and Crystal brings out her newest favorite game – Twister. She and I take turns spinning or following the directions (left foot green, right hand red). Each time one of us falls, Jordan hands us a baby carrot – something he devised as an essential part of the game.
Soon Jordan says he wants to paint, so we troop downstairs to the family room where the easel is and first Jordan, then Crystal paints a picture for their mom for Christmas. Jordan’s picture is full of big swirls of color. Crystal paints a portrait of her mother, with lots of hearts and flowers. I decide to have them both mounted on foam board, so I take them away to the laundry room to dry and hide from their mother when she picks them up. The kids promise to keep the secret. (And they do!)
We have “mac-cheese” for lunch, an organic brand we all like. Again I offer to put on a video and the kids say no. It’s too cold to play outside. It’s beginning to rain so the snow will soon melt, or freeze again at night. We go into the living room to finish decorating the tree. I put on a Christmas carol album (we have a record player in this room) with an orchestra and chorus.
Crystal begins to do ballet to the music. She has recently started taking ballet lessons. She poses with her hands in the classical ballet positions, her face serious with the effort to concentrate. She begins to twirl and leap around the room.
"Come on, Nana," she says. "Dance with me." I twirl around the room with her, tears in my eyes for this magical day with this magical child.
After dancing, we read books. Each child picks out their favorite Richard Scarry story or book. Then I choose some Christmas stories to read. We have a snack of ice cream (organic of course) and dark chocolate syrup. The day drifts by. Jordan plays alone with his wooden train set. Crystal stays close. We both seem to sense this is a special day, a re-bonding day. I have been a part of her life from the beginning. Our connection is strong, our friendship deep.
I remember those times when I was a mother – the times when schedules were suspended and we spent time - quality time - together. Once we took over two months and traveled from California to the East Coast and back, camping all the way. We visited relatives and lots of national parks. My sons were five and ten.
These mundane days, these special days, these re-bonding days are essential in the lives of families, couples, friends. They form the basis of why we are together, why we live and learn together, why we depend upon each other for solace and support. The connection I have with my grandchildren is an important part of the fabric of their lives and of my own. I am part of who they are, who they are becoming. They are part of who I am, who I am becoming. They might not remember this day, this mundane day, this special day. But it will remain as part of the threads that make up their sense of themselves, their understanding of who they are and their place in the world. They will know, deep down, that they are loved, as will I.