Yesterday the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at the home of my step-daughter and her husband, and my one and only granddaughter (well, step-granddaughter–I guess that properly makes me a step-grandmother), Ava. Ava is three and a half, and is smarter than most adults I know. Thanksgiving was a day of family, grace, joy, happiness, peace, laughter and general sugar-induced mania.
Since I didn’t have children of my own, this experience in having a granddaughter is brand-new to me. I am continually amazed at how much fun it is to play with her, to listen to her chatter, and just be around her. I understand intellectually about following house rules, reinforcing her parents’ good training and consistency, good manners, etc. But in my heart and mind all I can think of is how much I love and adore this miraculous , unique and immensely wonderful little being.
Ava is interested in many things, not the least of which is her enchantment with princesses. Mind you, this is a kid who is more comfortable riding with her dad on a huge tractor than your average working farmer. She loves tomboyish things, loves dressing up, and loves trying new things. She admires the female role models in her life, including the ones on her favorite Disney shows. She understands kindness, love, courage and family values, and also is proud to have her very own chore list. Even at her tender age, she has chores to perform. It makes her feel good to be a contributing member of the family.
At one point in the day, Ava and I discovered the checkerboard in the living room, all set up with the red and black pieces neatly in position for a game. Ava took the black side, and I took the red. It wasn’t long before the game devolved into Ava chasing my pieces all over the board and taking them hostages. I looked her in the eye and said, “So…that’s how you want to play this?” She looked right back at me, eyes twinkling with mischief, and said, “Yeah.”
What happened next turned into the game we came to call Atomic Checkers. I lined my remaining red pieces up on my side, and using my thumb and middle finger, snapped them across the board to Ava. Screeching with laughter, she winged her pieces at me until the checkerboard was empty. We raced each other to pick up the pieces, dump them on the table, then start aiming them at each other again. We finally called a truce and herded up all the surviving checkers into their bag to lick their wounds until next time. (I’m sure that some survivors of the game are still hiding under the sofa, hoping to get away in peace.)
I had the thought that maybe this isn’t proper behavior for a grandmother, even a step-grandmother. I also thought that perhaps I am not a good role model for this kid; if she didn’t think I was nuts before yesterday, she certainly must think so now. But deep in my heart (which has belonged to Ava since the day she was born), I know that a little nuttiness is good for the soul. I hope that she may come to know that not only would I do anything for her, but also that I am willing to be a big old fool in front of her. I worry less of what she will think of my Atomic Checkers game than how she will remember that her Lulu loves her beyond all measure. Again, I have absolutely no experience in parenting, and can never claim to be an expert on children. But what I do know for sure is that the purest and deepest love in my heart is for this little girl.
The Hawaiians have a lovely term to describe all people who matter to them, whether or not they are actually related. It is called ‘ohana,’ which means “extended family.” Ohana embraces all whom we love and who love us, forming a bond stronger than the circumstance of birth. We are born to our families, but those we draw into our families are as deep and as real a tie as those linked by blood.
My hope for us all is that we remember not only who we are and where we came from, but that we fully embrace and appreciate everyone in our own ohanas.