Sunday brunch with the grandmas

Dear friends: I’m sharing a poem today. Perhaps you know the feeling, when you’re surrounded by friends sharing pictures of their children or grandchildren and you don’t have much to contribute. To the women with whom I shared this meal, I had a good time, really. I love you both, your grandkids are adorable, and I hope to do it again soon. Just  . . . well, it’s a little different for those of us who don’t have kids.

At Georgie’s on Sunday after church,
my friends, both grandmothers,
shared photos on their phones
while I ate my eggs Benedict,
nodding and cooing words of praise
for little Raegan and Jaxon
and Jackson with a K and Dylan
and Damon and Madison.

“They’re getting big so fast.”
“He’s such a handsome boy.”
But I couldn’t quite melt the way
real women who’ve had babies do,
that catch in the voice, that
“Isn’t she precious? Oh my Gosh.
Look at those itty bitty hands”
as they remember another baby’s fingers
touching their breasts as they nursed
or squeezing their daddy’s giant thumb.

My eggs were cooked just right,
not too runny, the hollandaise
creamy around the ham, so thick
I scooped it up with my fork.
I was tempted to lick the plate.
Out the west-facing windows,
the winter ocean thrashed,
all white froth and gray
one shade darker than the sky.

A grandma flipping through her phone:
“Did you see my grandson’s fiancée?”
“No,” said the other. “Oh, she’s beautiful.
Would you look at that gorgeous ring.”
My plate was empty now, but they
had barely touched their food,
feasting instead on grandmother pride.
I sucked the ice left in my glass.
When our waitress brought our separate checks,
they finally put their phones away
to eat blueberry pancakes and sausages.

“So Sue, how’s your dad?” a grandma asked.
“Doing really well at 95.”
And that was all I had to say.
My phone is full of dogs and trees
I could have shared my baby niece
if my phone weren’t sitting in the car,
but I have to admit it’s not the same,
this stranger who lives so far away,
whose pictures I save from Facebook posts,
but you have to offer what you’ve got
when you’re sharing a booth in Grandma Land.

 

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Where have all the grandmas gone?


Last Sunday, I had one singer in my church choir for the early Mass. Everyone else had gone out of town to be with grandchildren. Cathy and I, not mothers or grandmothers, stayed behind. This is not unusual. Most of our singers are over 60, and most of them are grandparents. Although they like to sing and are devoted to the church, when it’s a choice between the baby and the music, the baby wins every time.
I can’t blame them. If my life were different, if I had children and grandchildren, I’d want to be with them, too. I might live somewhere else to be near them, and I might not have this choir director job that keeps me busy every weekend. I’d be busy with the kids. Or maybe not. Some families don’t get along, don’t live close to each other, don’t find time to be in each other’s lives.
I definitely see the charm of these new little people and feel left out sometimes. Monday was my birthday. I spent it alone. It was not terrible. I drove out of town, did some shopping, had an expensive lunch overlooking the ocean, sat on the beach, and hiked in a wildlife preserve. I got lots of calls and texts wishing me Happy Birthday. But if there were children or grandchildren, maybe I’d have been one of those moms at the restaurant surrounded by their family. I’d be the matriarch looking at the ever-growing dynasty that began with me and my husband: the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, their spouses and their in-laws. Heck, maybe we’d need a whole banquet room. But then I wouldn’t have been able to sit on the beach, write, take pictures and relax. Or enjoy my crab-stuffed salmon in peace. So don’t feel sorry for me.
You who are reading this are probably younger than me, so things may be different when you’re in your 60s. A recent AARP article gave statistics for what they see as “the new grandmothers.” They say 47 is the average age of the first-time grandparent and 62 percent are still working. Those numbers are bound to change with the next generation as they did for the one before me. My mother and my grandmother quit working paid jobs in their early 20s when they got pregnant with their first children. Honestly, at my age they were a lot older. They’d never run off on their own like I did.
Today many women don’t get pregnant until their late 30s or early 40s, so they’ll be much older if/when the grandchildren come. A higher percentage will be still working. And at least a fifth, possibly a quarter, of today’s young women are not having children, so fewer of them will be running off to hang out with the grandkids. People without children will feel less left out because they’ll have plenty of company.
Cathy and I, the non-moms, rocked those songs at church. One of the fussiest people in our parish sent me a note saying the music was just beautiful on Sunday. So there.