had nothing to do with gas; undoubtedly, it was because she loved being near Grandma."
Making Peace with Being a
by Alayne Kay Christian
Guests mingled, and a mishmash of conversations competed with a lively version of White Christmas. Our daughter, Jennifer, turned down the stereo and shouted, “Everybody, gather round!” Her husband, Kurt, stoked the fire while we all assembled around their Christmas-card-perfect tree.
“We have special party favors for you,” Jennifer announced, “but! You have to open them at the same time.”
One by one, Jennifer pulled red satin brocade boxes from a velvet Santa bag and handed them to each guest. I imagined the boxes held Christmas ornaments. I haven’t seen her this excited on Christmas since she was 10 years old, I thought. These must be exceptional ornaments.
My attention snapped back when Jennifer started counting, “1-2-3, go!” We all opened our gifts at the same time. I removed the tassel closure, raised the box top, and looked inside for my ornament. Instead, I saw a mound of sparkling artificial snow and a personalized note that read . . . “Merry Christmas, you’re going to be a grandmother!” An emotional tidal wave rushed through me. This was one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the saddest.
After sharing weepy hugs and kisses with Jennifer and Kurt, I looked around, wondering where my husband, Steve, had gone. I found him standing at the front door, watching fluffy snowflakes float down to a thick carpet of snow. The jubilation that filled the other room faded as I put my arms around him. In the silence, we watched the flakes dance in the wind. And we cried. Partly from joy and partly because we knew this would be the last snow we would see for a while. However, there was something much larger tugging at our hearts. In three weeks, Steve would be starting a new job 800 miles away. We were leaving Illinois and moving to North Carolina. My mind went crazy with thoughts of the future: My baby is having a baby, and I won’t be here to support her. I’ll miss her stages of pregnancy. I won’t be there for the birth. My grandchild won’t know me. I’m going to miss everything!
Once we moved, Jennifer called us with a report after every doctor's appointment. She convinced me that the doctor could predict the time of birth so accurately that I would be able to fly back to Chicago in time for baby’s arrival. Elle proved everyone wrong by arriving three weeks early.
That night, Steve and I sat on our screened porch listening to rain tapping on the trees in cadence with a chorus of crickets and frogs singing a tranquil tune. Steve heard the phone ringing and ran to answer. It was Kurt. He said, “Jen’s in labor,” then he continued briefly with the details before he rushed back to the birthing room.
Excitement, happiness, and sadness mixed through me. I sat on the porch sobbing and listening to the rain and frogs. Jenni’s in labor, and here we sit separated by all these miles. What if she needs me?
A few hours later, the phone rang again. A deliriously excited Kurt announced, “She’s here! Jen and baby are both doing well.”
Once again, those relentless tears streamed down, but with them came laughter, because this time they were the byproduct of pure joy. It poured over me like the rain gently poured over the trees. What a wonderful time for Jennifer and Kurt. What a wonderful time for Steve and me. And, what a wonderful time for the world.
Three weeks later, I finally saw my little Elle – the heart of my heart. She was a perfect extension of my other precious love, Jenni. With Elle, I found a more powerful bond than I ever imagined. When I finally got my hands on my granddaughter, I showered her with kisses. I never wanted to let her go. Nevertheless, after eight "happy Grandma" days, I had to. North Carolina was waiting. I already missed her before I even boarded the plane. I missed feeling her in my arms, her little head on my chest, and her smell. I missed watching her sleep, and I missed that cute little smile that I insisted had nothing to do with gas; undoubtedly, it was because she loved being near Grandma. I longed to kiss her precious little face and hold her tiny hands and feet. I missed everything about perfectly sweet little Elle.
The hum of engines lulled me into daydreams of what it might be like when Elle grew older. This stirred up memories of my own experiences as a long-distance grandchild. I reminisced about helping Grandma gather eggs and feed the chickens.
“Here, chick-chick-chick!” Grandma sang as she sprinkled feed on the ground.
I followed behind Grandma, throwing feed and singing, “Here, chick-chick-chick!”
"Not only will airplanes, cars, and telephones bring us together, the universe, memories, and our hearts will keep us connected."
"We all have the sun, moon and stars. I can teach Elle how nature can remind her of our love and fun times together."
"I wait for Mr. Moon to appear over the treetops and imagine him shining through Elle’s bedroom window. . ."
"I missed watching her sleep, and I missed that cute little smile that I insisted
Later, I watched Grandpa milking cows in the barn. The earthy smell of damp hay and cow pies soothed my nostrils. Suddenly, Grandpa looked up at me with a big grin. I felt something warm and wet hit my face.Grandpa giggled. He squirted me again with the cow’s milk and laughed even louder. At the time, I didn’t think it was very funny, but I have never forgotten that day or Grandpa’s smile and laughter.
Visiting them in Minnesota gave me the gift of experiencing the love of my long-distance grandparents. It also opened my heart to country living. I remember the wonder of nature, winding dirt roads, country freedom, and the many moments when the city was the farthest thing from my mind. My heart was there. And for a few weeks each summer, my home was there.
I came out of my reverie when I heard the airplane engines slow down for landing. My eyes fell upon the most glorious sunset I have ever seen. Looking out over the wing at the spectacular sky, I had a revelation. Not only will airplanes, cars, and telephones bring us together, the universe, memories, and our hearts will keep us connected. We all have the sun, moon and stars. I can teach Elle how nature can remind her of our love and fun times together. She will grow to love and treasure her long-distance grandparents and experiences, as I do mine.
When Elle was three-years-old, we took a family vacation to Florida. One night, Elle and I stood on the beach watching the sun paint the sky shades of pink, orange, and purple. After the big orange ball disappeared, we cuddled up on a weathered beach swing, singing songs and talking. “Look, the moon!" Elle pointed. The full moon peeked over the horizon. “Good night, Miss Sun. Hello, Mr. Moon,” Elle whispered. She snuggled closer and said, “Miss Sun went to bed. Now, it’s Mr. Moon’s turn to go to work.” We watched the moon make its way across the stars and up to the heavens, while its silver reflection bounced on the water. Gently swinging back and forth, we listened to the surf until Elle drifted off to sleep.
Our hearts linked the first time I held Elle in my arms, and 800 miles means nothing when we have nature, our imagination, memories, and lots of love to keep us connected. Every chance I get, I watch the sun go down and I whisper, “Good night, sun. Good night, Elle.” I wait for Mr. Moon to appear over the treetops and imagine him shining through Elle’s bedroom window, while Jenni tucks her in and gives her a special butterfly kiss from Grandma.