GRANDMOTHER IS A VERB …
That phrase is inspired by the title from Sarah Knott’s wonderful new book, Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History: a mother who writes about her daily deeds of love and duty as she reminds us that it has been this way since the dawn of human infants. This wonderful tale extends, fills in, adds heft to the meanings of “to mother” first enumerated by Adrienne Rich in 1976 her book, Of Woman Born: Motherhood and Institution.
In 1976, I was the mother of a teenage son, barely earning a livable wage and desperate to complete my graduate studies in education. I needed to hear stories about how mothers were faring in what seemed then (and even now for many) a desert of support for mothers of infants or teenagers, married or single, simply in the doldrums or entirely destitute. Oh, for a grandmother, nearby. Neither was available.
In the nearly 50 years between then and now, the lives of mothers have been richly documented and described, in loving and painful detail, expanding not just the connotations but the social implications of the verb TO MOTHER in books, journals, and magazines online and off.
The next chapters must find their way onto the page …
The mothers of my generation and those who came after are…
Grandmothers, Grans, Grannies, Nanas, Abuelas, Großmutters, Grootmoeders, Grandmères, along with many others whose names or titles I can’t track, or reproduce in print with my key board.
To grandmother–verb transitive–defines us: active, in the ready, front-loaders and back-loaders, there in a pinch, eager to prop, lift, carry, lie-down-beside, the handy gran, a rejuvenated member of the mom, toddler trio, and, in fact, always a significant member of the family constellation until recent decades.
And who is documenting us? Not as little old ladies, or old crones.
We who populated the feminist ranks decades ago are making it known that our story has not ended.
What’s ended is the silence. We are news, we have perspective, we bring the wisdom of experience and we are ready to share. We have much to pass along to our progeny who face a future with more than the usual challenges to survival.
See Grandmother Tales below … More to come.
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The images of the helicopter departure of Michelle and Barack Obama from the White House on January 20 felt awkward, certainly theatrical, if not slightly surreal. Don’t get me wrong, everyone played his or her part and the exit went off without a hitch. What kept nagging at me was, where were the girls, Sasha and Malia? Or, perhaps more accurately, how can our first family of the last eight years depart—even symbolically—without the children and to me, as important, without their grandmother, Mrs. Robinson [...]
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And still able to spring out of the water, balance for a moment on her tail before going under for the next laps in her Pacific Ocean domain, traveling with other members of her orca pod. All are in high spirits, breaching and tailfin slapping, momentarily released from their H2O milieu and apparently rapturous about the brightness of the sun and the massaging of their skin by surface breezes. [...]
How does it happen that as infants grow into their six-month stage, their eyes, large and wide, their gaze, long and leisurely, seems to beam from a far off place, a heavenly body, perhaps, where pools of feeling need no shelter, where wonder and seriousness are in abundance, exposed and available for the innocent to absorb.
My most recent “gaze” came from my grandniece, Lucy, at her baptism ceremony. [...]
One day after a wind blown summer storm, my 7-year-old grandson, Matthew, and I collected fallen debris from trees and other rubble, piling fragments of dead branches in a corner of the deck. As we stacked final bits, I remarked how great it was to have his help. "Now, it's time to get the recycling bag, yes?”
“No. I have an idea.”
“Yup—you’ll see.” [...]
April 2007, on an impulse, I stepped into the Apple store in my local mall to check out the iPods on display. Smart phones had yet to arrive on the market. What I wanted to know was whether these small, sleek devices had a recording function? Specifically, could an iPod record conversations between Matthew, my seven-year-old grandson, and me? I asked, Tom, one of the sales associates.
“Sure, it just needs a microphone.” He retrieved a tiny black box from the rear of the store, attached it to an iPod and turned it on. We had a short conversation about the wonders of new technology. I put in the ear buds, dialed the recording, and listened to a nearly flawless replay of our exchange. [...]
I sink exhausted in my chair at lunch, my 4-year-old grandson sitting across from me, and hit the play button on the VCR so that the next episode of Thomas The Tank Engine rolls through while we eat. The morning has been endless moves from inside to outside, upstairs and down, [...]