How was I to know you would be as transient as the pastel pink blossoms blooming on my peach tree, their petals swept away by the wind, drying out, dying? I thought you’d be there forever, loving me, telling me I was your favorite grandma.
My granddaughters and I fell in love with each other. The firstborn was a golden-haired fairy princess in a teal tutu, now a heartbreakingly beautiful teen. Her spun gold hair fell down her back, thick with body and wave. Her athletic slim body ran, skipped, cart wheeled and twirled on her way anywhere. Not a brooder, but a truly happy girl. We spent hours playing games. My favorite was the book editor game where she, of course, was editor and I her assistant. We repaired some manuscripts, threw others on the floor. Those on the floor were not rejects but “maybes,” to be examined at a later time. The maybes were usually my assignment. We had dinner together often. She begged me for my roasted potatoes and ate them quickly between grins. Mashed potatoes were scorned, with requests that next time I roast them. She used fruits from the garden to make a “special sauce” to top ice cream.
Along came the second, four years later. Her dark hair was not thick like her mother’s but full of curl and traveled down her back to her waist. She was sober, thoughtful, but delighted in make believe, costumes, and loved to perform on stage. She was also a tiny thing, even more fairy-like than her cousin. Her perfect rosebud mouth and large, deep brown eyes enhanced her beauty. She became a reader early on and actually cried when she ran out of books. I more than understood that feeling and made late nights runs to bookstores to stock up.
I think my stepchildren were surprised that their children loved me so deeply. Early on, my grandchildren were both pushed toward Grandpa, not me. “Make a picture for Grandpa,” his daughter would say. “Help Grandpa with the cooking,” his son would say. But those girls wanted Grandma; our love for each other was so huge. I talked to them about their lives, played with them, and they shared secrets with me. They were mine and I was theirs.
The loss of these girls was the worst consequence of a battle over money and property with my adult stepchildren when my husband died. Eventually, the stepchildren and I stopped fighting; we settled the matter through mediation. But the rancor remaining was outsized, difficult to overcome. They used my grandchildren as pawns, turning them against me, calling me names, telling lies about me. What could those girls do but go along with their parents?
A new explosion of blossoms blows through my breezeway. These are salmon-colored petals from a different peach tree. This time I’m reminded that with springtime comes the hope of renewal. But hope, like these lovely petals, is fragile; I can’t count on it flourishing. Then again, I think of the fruit to come. Maybe my grandchildren will thrive in the sun like peaches and remember the grandmother they once loved. It’s a cheerful thought, full of trust and desire, but having not seen them for more than five years, I fear it’s foolishness. They will thrive but not in my presence.
Some have told me I never should have loved them at all, that they were never mine. They’d had similar experiences and never saw their grandchildren again, stopped even sending cards, and resigned themselves to life without them. Can it be that they were ghosts in my arms, their bodies full of vapor trailing back to their parents who never loved me?
Amanda Noble has a Ph.D. in Sociology and has researched and published numerous academic articles, book chapters and reports. Frustrated by the constraints of scientific writing, she turned her attention to creative non-fiction writing, especially personal essay and memoir. Her work has appeared in Seven Hills Review, Indiana Voice, Anak Sastra, and is forthcoming in Eastern Iowa Review She lives in Davis, California with her cat, Lucy.