Fifteen and Counting

JUST YESTERDAY…
JUST YESTERDAY…

My oldest granddaughter, Maria, turned 15 today. I know. How is such a thing even possible? The very word, grandCHILD, proclaims the absurdity of it.

To mark this unprecedented event, the almost-a-woman had a slumber party at my house last night, as people that age are wont to do, simply because I have a big empty bedroom and almost limitless tolerance. Her brother had a sleepover here about a week ago. You might think five 10- and 11-year-od boys unparalleled in their ability to create mayhem, but I’d have to say, for sheer volume and exuberance, six teenage girls put five preteen boys to shame.

CAN BE CONTROLLED WITH THREATS.
CONTROLLABLE WITH THREATS.
ON THE BRINK OF CHAOS.
SURE, THEY LOOK TAME.

The girls played some crazy games they made up and listened to music I never heard before. About the time they started concocting things in the kitchen with giant marshmallows and Hershey bars, I went to bed. There are times when it’s a kind of blessing to be semi-deaf. I slept quite soundly until 7 am, unlike Maria’s mother, who needed a good nap today.

When I think of my own teenage slumber parties, I recall a rather controlled group of almost-women, although I realize now that can’t possibly have been the case. It seems to me there was a lot of hair-arranging and angst involved. Someone’s bra may have ended up in the freezer, but other than that, no 1960s mother would have let us near the family kitchen.

PRACTICING OUR DANCE MOVES. I THINK.
PRACTICING OUR DANCE MOVES. OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, it seems appropriate at this time to drag out one of my favorite Maria stories…

“One day when the family was over, I didn’t think much of it when I saw 8-year-old Maria cutting up a grapefruit in the kitchen. After everyone left, I sat down to read for awhile, then headed for bed. I went upstairs, turned on the bedroom light, and saw a chunk of pink grapefruit stuck on the wall with a hat pin. Which probably wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I had just been reading The Killing Floor by Lee Child, which is exactly what it sounds like, and at first glance the piece of grapefruit looked remarkably like a piece of human flesh to me and it took about ten minutes for the hysteria to subside. I ask you, what would possess a child to pin grapefruit to her grandmother’s bedroom wall? Truly, it is troubling to me.”

I love that story. And surprisingly, Maria has not turned into someone who can’t be trusted with sharp objects. She is in fact a sweet, soft-spoken, thoughtful young woman. This is a good thing, so now I will just shut up about it.

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Shopping With Maria

It’s been a long time since I went shopping with a preteen girl. I tried it yesterday and remembered why God created menopause; i.e., ten or twelve years after giving birth, you have to take them shopping. This requires more fortitude than you’re likely to have.

Maria and I hadn’t spent any quality time together for a while, so she came over in the afternoon and stayed the night. We had pedicures and she had a manicure (tiny white flowers on every pink nail), got something to eat and went to Target to get her a new outfit. We started in the Girls’ department, but as she’s several inches taller than me now, ended up in Juniors.

Needless to say, the things she was pulling off the racks bore little resemblance to anything I had in mind. We headed to the fitting room with armloads of clothes; then it was just me running back and forth like a mad gopher. This went on for about two hours.

Maria liked everything she tried on no matter how inappropriate. She was particularly smitten with a little black and white striped number that looked like something out of Sweet Charity. Didn’t keep count, but I believe I said “Your mother will kill me if I buy you that” around fifty times. It isn’t easy getting through to an eleven-year-old girl. It’s like the words float out over their heads somewhere and only reach their ears on an intermittent basis.

She was sweet about it though. The pleading was minimal and she never broke into tears. I’m not her mother, after all. Eventually we compromised on a pair of navy blue leggings, a sheer, flowered tunic and a tank top to go underneath. Middle ground to be sure, and she still could pass for fifteen in it.

THE GREAT COMPROMISE

Dear God: This is Judy. Thank you for menopause.

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Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Maria, part 2

Sept. 8, 2006
Maria started first grade on Tuesday. It was her first time riding the school bus, which should have been largely uneventful, except that she fell asleep on the way home, and instead of being the first one off the bus she was the last one off. By the time she got there, her mother was barely coherent and her two aunts (the first-day welcoming committee) were ready to call the chief of police. You might think this would be a little traumatic for a 6-year-old, but apparently it wasn’t. She said she had a great day.

Dec. 13, 2006
Hoping to find someone with an extra Baby Alive they’d like to sell. The sad scenario:
• I did not buy Baby Alive at Target when I had a chance, even though I helped another grandma find one on the shelves.
• My 6-year-old granddaughter expects Santa to deliver a pooping doll.
• Target and everyone else is OUT of Baby Alive, although it is available on e-bay for roughly the cost of a new sofa.

[Epilogue: Yes, I bought one on e-bay. Of course I did.]

Jan. 28, 2009
Had Maria over to spend the night last week, and she wrote a story about me. I especially liked the title (“A Woman and Her City”) and the ending (“She loves us anyway.”)

May 15, 2009
I was talking to Maria on Mother’s Day (on Mother’s Day, mind you) and she was telling me about the plans for her 9th birthday, which is two months away, but why wait? She said she is having two parties: a Friends party at the beach, which I am not allowed to attend, and a Family party, which will be held at my house. Excuse me?

“Are you saying I’m an embarrassment to you?” I asked her. She said yes, I was. Well, I can understand that. I tease her a lot, which amuses her when it’s just us but could be tiresome when your friends are around. (“That’s my Grandma. She tells lame jokes.”)

So I asked, “How about if I don’t talk? Can I come to the Friends party if I don’t talk?” She said I’m an embarrassment even when I don’t talk. “Okay,” I said. “Maybe I won’t get you a birthday present this year then.” Right. She would not deign to respond to such a ridiculous threat.

This reminds me of the elderly gentleman who, when asked how winning the lottery had changed his life, said, “Well, the grandkids come around a lot more now.” I’ll bet.

[Epilogue: When the Friends party rolled around, Maria expected me to be there. “Oh, Grandma,” she said, “I was only kidding.”]

Jan. 28, 2011
Went to see Tangled with Maria last weekend. I used a couple of free movie tickets I got for doing a rip-roaring, outstanding job on something at work, I forget what. Then I spent $10 on one small popcorn and one small Sprite. That is correct – ONE popcorn, ONE pop, TEN bucks. Lord help me if I’m starting to sound old, but $10, for cripes sake.

Anyway, we liked Tangled a lot. I asked Maria what her favorite part was, and she said the part where Rapunzel hit the hero over the head with the frying pan. Repeatedly. She’s growing up.

Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Maria, part 1

This is my very first grandchild, Maria. Isn’t she beautiful? She’s ten now. Everything I needed to know about being a grandma, I pretty much learned from her. Not in any big “Aha!” moment, but in a lot of little moments until, finally, she owned me.

When she was about two, Maria and her mother came over one day unannounced. I was kneeling on the floor in my room going through some clothes, when I heard her little feet on the stairs. She ran in and hugged me hard around the neck. “Grandma,” she said, “Grandma.” As if I’d just pulled her back from the abyss.

And that is how they tighten the rope around your heart.

Another time, when she was still too little to know better, she introduced me to a woman who happened to be washing her hands in the same public restroom. “This is my grandma,” she told the woman, as if it was something the general public needed to know.

And that is how they pull on the rope and rip out your heart and lock it away in a box somewhere.

Then sometimes (when it was still just the two of us – no Christian, Grace, Cosette or Baby Bret) out of the blue she would say, “You’re my grandma,” and I had to reply, “I am your grandma.”

And that is how they take the box with your heart in it and drop it in the bottom of the Forever Ocean, never to be seen again.

The Grapefruit Story

Grandchild behavior can be interesting to say the least and sometimes makes me wonder what awaits them if they continue down this path. A few years ago, for example, when the family was over one day, I didn’t think much of it when I saw 8-year-old Maria cutting up a grapefruit in the kitchen. After everyone left, I sat down to read, and a few hours later headed for bed. I went upstairs, turned on the bedroom light and found hanging there a chunk of pink grapefruit stuck on the wall with a hat pin. Which probably wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I had just been reading The Killing Floor by Lee Child, which is exactly what it sounds like, and at first glance the piece of grapefruit looked remarkably like a piece of human flesh to me and it took about ten minutes for the hysteria to subside. I ask you, what would possess a child to pin grapefruit to her grandmother’s bedroom wall? Truly, it is troubling to me.