Watching my two grandsons zoom around the front courtyard of my condo almost makes me dizzy. Their energy astounds me and half of the pictures I take of them are nothing more than a blur. My thirty-two-year-old daughter is slumped in the lounge chair with her legs extended out and her hands thrown over the aluminum armrests. “I’m exhausted,” she says, putting emphasis on the “aust.” “What was I thinking?” The only thing I can do is chuckle. What indeed was she thinking, having two babies in just two years? We continue to watch the zooming and discuss dinner, which should already be started.
I know, lots of people do it. I did well to manage when, at 32, my daughter arrived four years after her older brother. It definitely helped that I was smitten by her big dark eyes and ample head of almost black hair. It really helped when she was declared a good baby by others, who marveled at her sleeping ability and complete lack of crankiness. My mother used to wake her up in mid-afternoon just to cradle her in the sun for a few hours or stick tiny pink bows in her hair with scotch tape.
From the beginning, she was easy-going and seemed to have a sense of understanding visual and physical humor. She was a sly one, too. She fooled us into believing she still had not begun to walk at 13 months, until the day I peeked in her brother’s bedroom to see her walk all the way across the room. “Mom, she’s been doing that a long time,” he said. I really couldn’t tell if he was delighted by the secret he’d been keeping with her, or, disgusted by my lack of observation.
Then one day, a toddler arrived in that little sweet body. It was time to stand back. The hand smock-dressed, picture perfect little two-year-old angel became a headstrong, opinionated, outspoken three-year-old. Her grandmother took her to the aquarium, planning to make a day with her. After thirty minutes, she sat down on a bench, crossed her chubby three-year arms, kicked her feet up and declared, “I’m not looking at any more fishes today.” My wise mom packed her back in the car and came home.
Then there was the Easter hat that was worn the entire week before Easter Sunday, to the point where I worried it would be too soiled for the service. On Easter morning, it was donned for the egg hunt and worn through breakfast. But the instant we left the car and started for the church, that hat met the pavement so hard it skidded. “I’m NOT wearing this hat!” she declared, feet spread wide apart like a linebacker. God knew I needed the message that Easter.
I see a lot of her in both of my grandchildren, as I’m sure most grandparents do. The youngest—now two years old—doesn’t fall far from the tree. He is bull-headed. He can let go of a blood-curdling scream and hold it longer than an opera singer. And he never gives up, unless sleep finally wins. The oldest has an elephant memory, amazing insights, and reads well. His mind is a mixing bowl of newly-learned facts and marvelous fantasies of constantly changing subjects. But like all youngsters, he doesn’t always listen.
My daughter chides him—he is just shy of five—as he starts scavenging in the large berm for geckos. The little one picks up a fallen bloom from a nearby azalea and brings it to my daughter. “Here Mommy,” he reaches out to her. “I luff you, Mommy.” He looks at me with big dark eyes and immediately runs back for another fallen blossom. “I luff you, too YaYa.”
Stretched out in the late afternoon sun, I am content now, watching my grandsons dallying, sitting next to my grown daughter and marveling at the wonders that are my child’s children. It is the type of contentment I did not understand until I held them just after birth and marveled at their tiny fingers. Age has given me the wisdom to enjoy what is in front of me right now, with little care for what will happen tomorrow. Granted, these 2.0 toddlers are just as much a handful as the woman who brought them into the world, and the woman who brought her in.
Then the spell is broken, when the door of the half-full “bug barn” is opened on my lap, and the boys run away, screaming with mischievous laughter. I really wish my mother was still here to see this.
Sandy Ambrogi, reporter, photographer, mother, grandmother
Sandy Ambrogi works as a reporter/photographer for The Islander newspaper on Anna Maria Island, Florida. She has a son, daughter, and two grandsons, who are the light of her life.