Time for a little girl to feel special
My granddaughter Eleanor is 7 years old, full of life and ready to rule the world. If you don’t believe me, ask her brothers.
When Elle spends a night with us, she brings a backpack full of “necessities”: five changes of clothing; at least one “fancy” dress; two swimsuits; books for reading; paper for drawing; crayons for coloring; two of her favorite stuffed animals; and an interesting assortment of hats.
She doesn’t pack a toothbrush but keeps one at our place. She doesn’t bring a coat because she never gets cold. And although she adores her brothers, she leaves them at home, because it’s her turn to feel special, not theirs.
Her backpack is coming apart at the seams. If she had a bigger one, she’d bring more stuff. I love the things she brings that don’t need to be packed: laughs and hugs and lots of memories.
She sits at our dining room table, coloring a picture, staying within the lines. Her long brown hair, streaked with gold, flows down her back like a waterfall. One hand brushes it off her face. The other hand keeps coloring.
I wish you could see her.
Watching her, I recall two memories. The first is my daughter (Elle’s Auntie Nan) at Elle’s age, doing her homework at that same table. Same hair, same laugh, same readiness to rule the world. If you don’t believe me, ask her brothers.
The second memory is of me at Elle’s age, same hair, same laugh, but no interest in ruling the world. If you don’t believe me, don’t ask my brother.
Some of the happiest days of my childhood were spent with my grandmothers, who were as different from each other as two old women could possibly be.
One lived alone on a farm in the mountains where she knew the names of every living thing, trees, flowers, birds, snakes or anything else I needed to know.
The other lived in a small town where she knew every soul who passed her porch, where they’d been, what they’d bought and how much they’d paid for it.
One taught me how to crochet; the other taught me how to cheat at cards. I inherited both of their natures. Sometimes they argue in my head and I never know which side will win.
I wish you could hear them.
My grandmothers made me feel special to them. I was sure I was their favorite. My mother’s mother actually told me I was her favorite. I later learned she told other grandkids they were her favorites, too. But I knew she meant it most for me.
I have no desire to give my grandchildren my two-sided nature. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I want Elle and her brothers and their cousins to know they are all special to me. Each one of them is my favorite.
Children need to feel special. They long to be somebody’s favorite. It takes a fair amount of time to give them that. That’s why God created grandparents.
Tonight was Elle’s turn to feel special to us. She milked it for all it’s worth. For dinner, she chose the Running Iron (where cowboy boots hang from the ceiling) and ate mac’n’cheese and apple pie. When we came home she picked a movie (she swore “Home Alone” was OK with her mom) and stayed up late to laugh at it with us.
I put her to bed in our guest room, read a book, said prayers and kissed her goodnight.
Minutes later, she screamed, “There’s a spider on the wall!”
Papa Mark, our hero, removed the spider. But Elle’s eyes still looked as big as hubcaps. So I got in bed, pulled her close and promised to stay all night.
Soon she was snoring softly, with her arm across my face. And I recalled how it felt so long ago to fall asleep in the safety of my grandmother’s arms.
Tomorrow, we’ll pack up all her stuff, load it in the car and Elle will go home. I will miss her. But I hope she’ll take a few good memories to share some fine day with her grandchildren.
Can you guess what we plan to give her for Christmas? Yes, a brand new backpack — pink with white unicorns — that will hold only half as much stuff.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at PO Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or www.sharonrandall.com.