And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
On Monday, my oldest son and first child, Christopher, turned 37 years old. And today, his daughter, my only grandchild, Grandbaby Maya Mae, turned 8 years old. I love that they are attached to each other and both firsts for me – first child, first grandchild.
When Christopher was born, I was only 23 years old; I would turn 24 in July. I was a stay-at-home mom, and Christopher is my only child (there are three more!) who indeed was my only child – for 24 months, before his brother was born. He was the best possible child to have as my first – he loved routine, still does, and before he was six weeks old, he and I established a daily rhythm that suited us both. At the time, in those dinosaur days, I worked on an electric typewriter, after hand-writing my first drafts. Christopher took a nap in the morning, so that’s when I sat at the kitchen table and wrote in my notebook. Then he took a nap in the afternoon, and that’s when I typed what I wrote that morning. Because he was born in January in Wisconsin, we spent most of his early months inside, and in between his naps, my days were all things Christopher. In between his naps, we played and we read books and I marveled at everything he did. I remember, since we were stuck inside, I would take time every late afternoon when the light began to change outside, to walk him to every window in our small 2-bedroom apartment. I talked to him about the view from every angle. About the snow and what was under the snow and what we would do when it grew warm out. About the sun, which was going down, and about the moon, which was about to rise. The light changing from gold to silver.
We had such a magical time.
Years later, when Christopher was getting married, I warned him not to make me a grandmother before I turned 50. It was hard enough, finding him at an age to be married and off into his own life, without being made into a grandmother, who I likened to Grandma Walton from the television show, The Waltons. I told Christopher that if he made me a grandmother before I was 50, I would remove the apparatus that made me a grandmother before I was 50. Grandbaby Maya Mae was born when I was 52, and I would turn 53 in July. My son listens to me.
My first glimpse of Maya was at an ultrasound. The moment that little face appeared on the screen, so much more clearly than my own ultrasounds years before, everything in me melted. Who cared if being a grandmother meant I was getting old? There was this little girl!!!!
I had the great privilege of being in the birthing room when Maya was born. I was there to support my son, who, like all the jokes made in TV movies and shows, would faint at the sight of blood. So while he stood at his wife’s shoulder, I watched down below and reported to him everything that was going on. Just like in the beginning, he and I worked together in a rhythm.
And I was there when Maya first slipped into the world. I can’t even write words about that moment.
It was such a magical time.
This child. The book, Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News, is filled with Maya Mae Moments. She told me that trees talk to her, trees pronounced as “srees”, because to her, that’s what T’s do. She loves “swocolate” milk. She confessed that mosquito bites make her hair fall out. She puzzled over how she has five toes here and five toes there, five fingers here and five fingers there, but only one head. “Why only one head, Gamma Kaffee?” she asked me. “I would wike 5 heads.”
I told her that would make just too much hair to brush and too many thoughts to think, and she thought about that, then nodded.
Her backseat rendition of Uptown Funk about caused me to drive off the road. The lyric is, “Uptown funk you up, Uptown funk you up.” Except in Maya’s world, the “funk” didn’t come out that way. I thought her mother was going to die when I told her. “Funk!” Amber exclaimed. “Funk!” I dropped them off at home and howled all the way to mine.
Recently, when I asked Maya, via our nightly read-a-book and discussion on Zoom, what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “I don’t know.” She put a finger to her chin. “I need to consider what suits me,” she said.
A few days later, she showed me a book of 101 knock-knock jokes that she’s reading. “This,” she said, brandishing the book to the camera, “is a torture device.”
(She’s getting a book of 101 Elephant Jokes for her birthday. I figure it suits her.)
Back in 2017, when Maya had just turned four, she sang another song in my back seat, and it ended with an unintelligible word. I asked her to repeat it, and when she did, I still couldn’t translate. “Oooookay,” I said.
She gave the mightiest of sighs. “Gamma Kaffee, you just don’t get it.”
“I’m sorry, Maya Mae,” I said.
Another sigh, as big as the first. “Nobody gets it,” she said in a very small voice.
But I tried, and eventually, I did, by Googling the song and then repeating the lyric back to her. And I will always try to get it. Always. Every word, every facial expression, every emotion, every moment. I had her amazing father as my only child for 24 months. We shared magic together. And I’ve had Maya as my only grandchild for 8 years. More and more magic. She is held tightly to my heart. I will always listen. I will always try until I get it.
Maya and I see each other through Zoom mostly, because of the pandemic. I haven’t seen her since October, when she came to dinner after I was awarded a place on the Wall of Stars at my high school. This Saturday, she’s coming here for lunch, for a special birthday cake, for presents.
To see me. And she’s bringing her daddy. My 37-year old son.
(And to get a torture device.)
I can’t wait.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.