A few weeks ago we had our 12 year old granddaughter and her 13 year old cousin over for the week. They were taking part in a theatre camp and staying with us. The usual teen and pre-teen stuff occurred: outlasting us at bed time, constant raids on the fridge and pantry, eating multi batches of whatever had lots of sugar in it--hard to find in this house but they did, shopping for hours with far less money to spend than the items they were browsing and finally--fighting, fighting, fighting. How successfully I had repressed that memory!
The entire week made me think of my own grandmother and the times my cousin Bill and I spent with her at her lake cottage. He and I were born 19 days apart and we might as well have been brother and sister--I adored him, but we fought like siblings and got into various scrapes together. Here we are in a family picture at 3 or 4, looking a little shell-shocked but together as usual.
I emailed him towards the end of the camp week:
Remember the time we were at the lake with Grandma and a storm was coming and we wanted to go out in the boat and she said, "all right, but don't go through the channel." After promising, of course we bee-lined it right for the channel, went through into the next lake and promptly got caught in a big thunderstorm and the motor stalled out and wouldn't start again. We finally made it back, several hours later, and Grandma said, "You've taken 10 years off my life!" Bill definitely remembered the 10 years thing. Subsequently, I was telling a friend the story and started speculating--
Let's see, if I was, say 13 or 14, that would have been (quick addition here) 1956 or 57. Grandma was born in 1890 so that would make her.......oh my gosh, she was my age! Aack! That really made me think because I have absolute clarity on how old Grandma was then. Really old. House dresses. Wirey, grey hair. Hearing aid. Old!
Sudden vision of how my grandchildren see me. Oh my.
We really loved Grandma. She usually only had one of us grandchildren over at a time and showered attention on us. She didn't do anything big--we went on the bus with her to shop or walked a block up to the Hasty Tasty for a coke, or watched her mix up a batch of her chocolate cookies and ate as many as we could. We didn't get to eat TV dinners in their aluminum trays in front of the TV set at home but it was a break for Grandma, usually the best cook ever. She didn't tell our parents about the scare either. I really should call on her spirit when grandkids stay here now.
I thought I'd never forget how it felt to be 13: charged with sudden bursts of restlessness, frustrated and ambitious and time just crawled. It seemed forever before I would be able to get out of high school and go to college and be on my own. I was tired of clerks following me around department stores, acting as if I were about to shoplift. I wanted to go-go-go all the time but had no transportation other than a bike and what girl would be caught dead riding a bike to social places at 13? I wanted something all the time but I never knew what it was.
Our family camped and my mother always preferred quiet campgrounds. She found the most remote, private spots in the whole quiet place for our tent. I wanted to go where there were lots of people and other kids and Saturday night dances for teens. The one time we did, I refused to go into the dance hall. I suppose I was afraid of making a fool of myself.
What is this piece about, anyway? It's about families and being young and growing older and remembering and being sympathetic and enjoying what's in front of me. It's about the maybe couple of decades I have left and how I spend them. It's about what is important and what is not and how I choose to live. It's about who I am and who those 13 year olds will become and the wonderful and terrible times in front of them. Am I feeling nostalgic tonight? Am I sentimental? Am I going to actually post this? Oh yeah!