When I was young, I dreamed of many things. Being a grandmother wasn’t one of them. But over the course of time, things happened. Soon after high school, instead of college there was a wedding. Because it was the fifties, the inevitable babies came along–three of them, eventually, over the course of 10 years–all planned, all wanted, each adorable in his or her own way.
With dear, dear Dr. Spock’s help, I strove to be the near-perfect mother. I sang to them, read them stories, told them they were wonderful. I lay awake nights thinking up fun things we could do the next day. Ah, life was good.
But all too soon the good doctor’s book ended. It happened just as The Adorable Ones entered puberty–which, looking back on it now, seems very odd, considering that’s when the trouble really starts. (I’m thinking now that Benjamin didn’t know how to handle those teen years, either. That’s why the book ended when it did.)
What happened next is that aliens came down and replaced our kids with uncanny look-alikes. These look-alikes had one major flaw–they didn’t have a clue about what went before, during those early training years when we parents struggled to get it right so that when our little nestlings took wing they could fly free and find their own damn Golden Worms.
So our kids were replaced with Spock-free aliens and it went on for so long we thought we were stuck with them forever. What could we do? We tried to make the best of it. We even pretended we liked them. The one thing that kept us going was that we noticed a lot of our friends and neighbors seemed to be stuck with similarly alien children. Though none of us could get away with suggesting these children weren’t really ours, we did spend a lot of time discussing how very odd they were. The implication was there: It wasn’t that we weren’t the best of parents, it was that something beyond our control had taken over our children. We were helpless in the face of all that power. Helpless!
But this ugly bit of history has a happy ending! In time, in the middle of the night, for whatever reasons, the aliens took back their own and returned the real kids–the joys of our lives. (My ANGELS, you’re BACK!)
It’s all a blur now, so if you’re looking for the juicy stuff with which to gossip, forget it. It’s as if my memory has been wiped clean. I know nothing.
But the point of this story is that in time–a blink of an eye, really–a Golden Child was born–not of my loins, but pretty close. I said to this newest angel, “I think we’ll call me ‘Nana’, because, as you can see, I’m way too young to be a grandmother.” And one day, after months of coaching, I swore the Child said “Nana”. I thought I would just faint dead away with joy. My God! “Nana”! And so it went– merrily along.
Then one awful afternoon, the Child cleared his throat and admitted to me in a voice deeper than I had ever heard before, that he was thinking of changing my name. Because, didn’t I think “Nana” sounded like baby talk? (Well, exactly. Wasn’t that the point?)
What could I say? I said, “Well, darling, whatever you think. What would you like to call me?” He thought about it and thought about it. For a long while he didn’t call me anything. Then one day he said, “You know, I just can’t call you ‘grandma’”. And I said, “Yeah, I don’t know if I could answer to ‘grandma’. How about ‘meemaw’?”
“You serious?” he asked, his eyes wide, his mouth in a definite sneer.
“Well,” I said, “how about ‘Granny’? Or ‘Gammy’?”
He looked long at me. He shook his head. He knew this game, but for all his book-learning he was powerless to come up with something else.
“Let’s just stick with ‘Nana’”, he said.
Years passed and in a twinkling my beautiful, brilliant boy was 24 years old and college-wise. The subject came up again, because, after so many years of his being the Crown Grand-prince, from out of the veritable blue our second grandchild was about to appear. (Yes, it is what it seems–our first and second grandchildren were born 24 years apart. I believe it’s some sort of record, don’t you? And me still so young.)
So I asked the firstborn if we should now change “Nana” to something else. Give this cousin of his a name she could live with forever.
“What’s wrong with ‘Nana’?” he said, and, I swear, I almost changed my will and left every last nickel to him.
I didn’t, of course, and he would have been pretty disappointed, anyway. But it got me to thinking:
What is wrong with Nana?
(First chapter of yet another book struggling to be born. If it ever gets there, it already has a title. It can’t get much better than that.)