You already know that I love you with unreasonably profound love. I love your crazy curly hair, your huge brown eyes, your heavenly giggles.
I’m your grandmother, your Nonni. It’s in the fine print of my job description to love you intensely and to spoil you rotten.
But we have a special situation.
I take care of you every workday, for ten months of the year. I have a bedroom just for you (the “Nappy room”) with a bureau full of your clothes. Even though I’m 63 years old and retired, my living room contains two toy boxes and a toy kitchen set. I have a big orange box that contains more crayons and markers and paper than most kindergarten classrooms.
Don't’ even ask me about the food in my kitchen. Cantaloup (the kids call it “smiles”), crackers, ice cream….and of course sprinkles and chocolate frosting and string cheese. And milk again. Gallons of milk.
It’s been years since I’ve had a fridge full of milk.
I remember when I had to buy two gallons of milk every single week. And I remember how I sobbed when my nest emptied and there was no more need for all that milk.
So now I find myself in a house that needs some straightening up. It’s Friday night, and I need to spend some time picking up toys. I need to change the sheets on the “nappy bed” and tuck all the dolls and stuffies and trolls back into their homes. There are sippy cups to be cleaned and diaper drawers to be refilled.
My life has circled back around.
What I thought I had lost, I have found once again. The rocking of warm little bodies, the readings of Good Night Moon, the kisses, the hugs, the simple and gentle “I love yous”.
When my first grandchild, Ellie, was born four years ago, I stopped teaching so that I could be her everyday caregiver.
My sad and empty nest refilled. I felt needed again. I felt wanted and depended upon. I found myself once again filling what I believe to be the most important role that one could ever have in this life: I was raising children.
I AM raising children. I have given my heart, my soul, my aching back and all of my energy to helping my two grandchildren grow up to be safe and happy and confident and secure.
I lost my “Mommy” badge, but then I found its “Nonni” replacement.
And that’s why I’m so sad right now.
My nest is about to become a little bit emptier. My Ellie, at the tender age of four, has started preschool two days a week.
This is, of course, exactly as it should be. Little children need to play with other little children. They crave and deserve interactions with friends their own age. They need to grow and stretch and challenge themselves and learn to embrace the wide world around them.
So I’m happy for Ellie.
On the mornings when she isn’t here, her little brother and I do our best to fill the hours. We go outside to ride bikes and walk the dogs and dig in the sand pile. We bake cookies. We make new playdough and use it to shape cakes, and cookies, and dinosaurs and trucks.
But we miss her. Ellie’s absence is a huge and gaping hole, for both of us.
Johnny will be fine, I know. He’ll learn to play more independently, and he’ll learn to play with me. He will grow and start gymnastics and soccer and preschool. He’ll make new friends and play new games and go to birthday parties.
But I’ll be here when he does.
The woman who stands behind the woman who has the right to grieve.
After all, these are not my children. The nest that they will one day leave is not mine.
So why do I find myself so sad, so stricken, at the realization that time is flying by and they won’t need me for much longer?