11/12/20

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Since the pandemic started, I haven’t been able to see much of my only grandchild, Grandbaby Maya Mae. She’s no longer a baby; 7 years old and in the second grade, she would be quick to assure you that she is not a baby at all. But to me, of course, she always will be, just as my kids are too. I can’t help, when I look at them, to see who they are now, but also to remember the little ones they used to be.

I was in the room when Maya was born. I saw her come into this world. It was an event I will never ever forget. When you’re a mother, you’ve had the experience of birthing, but you’ve never witnessed it from the outside. In the case of my kids, I’m pretty sure they were all born when my eyes were squeezed tightly shut and I was shrieking. When Olivia was born, my obstetrician had this obsession with having the mom reach down and catch the baby as it emerged. I clearly remember him yelling, “Reach down! Reach down!” and while I don’t think I said it out loud, I absolutely thought, Are you out of your freaking mind? My body was caught up in getting that child out, and reaching for her with my hands at that moment would have meant I unfisted my fingers from whatever it was I had my death grip on. Olivia was safely caught by my doctor and then placed on me as I collapsed back into the birthing bed. And that was wonder enough.

But Maya…I saw her pop into the world. I saw her daddy, my son, holding on to her and saying over and over, “I’m your daddy! I’m your daddy!” And I held her too, before she was ten minutes old.

Maya lives in the same town I do, so this new isolation because of the pandemic is hard. Soon after the initial shutdown, I set up Zoom calls with Maya, where I read to her every night and she tells me about her day. I’ve seen her in person less than a handful of times since March. I don’t know what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everything is still up in the air. But thank goodness for Zoom. For letting me see her face and hear her voice.

This week, that little face and voice told me about a diary that she got from her Scholastic order at school. The diary is fuzzy and has cat ears, and Maya is the Cat Queen, just parading through Halloween dressed as the Crazy Cat Lady. This diary, true to diaries throughout the years, comes with a little lock and key, and Maya told me she writes her thoughts down in there, and then she locks them away.

I was delighted, and asked if she still has the journal I gave her last summer, to write stories in. In first grade, Maya began to write stories. I wanted to give her a special place to do so. The journal was purple and had purple feathers on it.

“Yes!” she said, and despite the gift of the journal being over a year before, she knew exactly where it was. She retrieved it, and then we spent a few minutes going over what she wrote way back then. “Wow,” she said. “I wrote sloppy when I was young.”

When she was young.

“I’m going to write another story!” she said, and sank right down on the floor with her pencil to do so.

“That’s excellent!” I said. “Read it to me tomorrow when I call you again.”

There’s something about your child, or your grandchild, connecting with something that you do. My oldest child, Christopher, wrote phenomenal poetry when he was in the first grade. I remember marveling over his instinctual knowledge of when to use repetition, and when to quit. As an adult, he doesn’t write, but he loves music and song lyrics. My middle child, Andy, was writing a novel for a while, and even took part in one of my classes. I will always remember when he came home in third grade, running in the door and shouting, “Mom! Mom! I started a story about a wizard!” And then he slouched for a minute and said, “But I think I spelled wizard wrong.” We spoke over an after-school snack of milk and cookies about how writers don’t worry about such things in first drafts. We worry about that later. He brightened, and he finished that story. My third child, Katie, she of the amazing math mind, also has an amazing mind for haiku. Every now and then, she sends me one, and each and every time, I marvel. And then there’s Olivia, the child of two writers. She writes poetry. She’s working on a novel. She’s had a poem published in a literary magazine already, and two articles in her college’s magazine.

And now, Grandbaby Maya Mae.

When I called her on Zoom the next day, she charged the screen with her purple feather journal. “Grandma Kaffee,” she said, the toddler “Gamma” gone, but the “th” still difficult, so Kaffee remains and I love it, “I’m going to write a chapter book!” And then she sat down and read to me. It’s all about a girl named Maya.

A chapter book.

That “something” about a child connecting with you with what you do…it somehow shows a respect, I think, an acknowledgement of who you are, beyond their mother, or their grandmother.

I treasure them. I treasure their words. Each and every one.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me with Maya shortly after her birth.
Maya now. Seven years old.
My favorite portrait of Maya, an absolute capture of her personality. She was three.
Me and Maya, on the shore of Lake Michigan. 8/11/18. Hopefully, we can someday visit there again.

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