Opinion Columns & Blogs

September 6, 2008

Letter to my granddaughter

Dear Ainsley Claire,

This may be the first love letter you receive. I'm certain it won't be the last.

It may be a few years before your mother reads this to you, and a few more before you can read it yourself.

I know you'll be an early reader because your parents will read to you as your grandmother and I did when your mother was little.

She especially loved books about Babar the Elephant; that's why your nursery has an animal theme and why your Nana Betty and your Aunt Amanda embroidered sheets and blankets with wild creatures for you.

Some of your Grandpa Terry's earliest memories involve books. A favorite family photo, taken by your great-grandfather with his Speed Graphic camera shows your great Uncle Mike and me flanking your great Aunt Patsy as she reads "Uncle Wiggily's Adventures" to us.

Uncle Wiggily, an old rabbit, was pretty funny, which explains why I was laughing so hard.

Nana says rabbits are good omens. That's because your mom once played the title role in a children's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit." Over the last few weeks, I couldn't go outside without her asking whether I had spotted one. I did, on several occasions.

When you visit, we will look for bunnies, I promise.

My favorite omen was the hummingbird I spotted hours before you were born. We'll look for hummingbirds, too.

At this writing, we have yet to meet, although your daddy sent us a photo by cell-phone when you were hours old. We have heard you mew a couple of times while we talking to your mommy at the hospital.

You may find this hard to believe, but when your mother was your age, it was days before we could get photos developed. When your grandparents were young, the only person who could send or receive live images was a fellow named Dick Tracy, and he lived only in the "funny pages" of newspapers. One day I may have to take you to a museum to show you what newspapers looked like.

In a few weeks, you and your parents and Ebbitt, your dog, will move to Africa, but we'll keep in touch with all of you through the Internet and Web cams. Web cams may have gone the way of dinosaurs before you reach first grade, but your grandparents used one for the first time a few days ago in preparation for your arrival -- and impending departure.

Your mother's job -- as a diplomat -- will take you far away from us. We don't begrudge fate because if it hadn't been for her career, she never would have met your father and we wouldn't ever know Ainsley Claire.

When you're older, you'll learn that life is made up of such bittersweet experiences. Sad moments help make happy ones more memorable.

An old friend told me the best thing about grandchildren is that you aren't responsible for them. Having a child is simple; raising one is a lifetime assignment.

Just when your folks seem unbearable -- and they will, believe me -- tell them you love them anyway. If you need to talk about it, I know four grandparents who will be happy to listen. Put us on speed dial.

More than anything, your Nana and I wish you could have known your great-grandparents. They are our role models for this grandparent gig.

When your mother was a newborn, Nana's parents would ring our bell and say they happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to "drop by," even though our houses were 45 minutes apart. We would tell Grandpa Frank that your mother was sleeping, and he would say, "That's OK. I'll just look in on her." Without fail, he would emerge from the nursery, holding your mommy in his arms, explaining that she just woke up.

Poppy Ruben and Grandma Arlene, no doubt, have plenty of stories to tell you about their parents. Telling stories is how families help newcomers like you connect with generations past.

And if your mommy and daddy don't protest too much, I'll just look in on you whenever I can.


Grandpa Terry

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