Once upon a time Grandma was a kid

Explaining you were a mommy before you were a grandma to a young grandchild quickly becomes a who’s who of considerable complexity.

“Grandma, Mommy said that you were her mommy.”

“Yes, and I still am,” I say. “I could ask her to unload the dishwasher right now and she’d probably do it.”

“Really?” the child exclaims, wide-eyed.


“Yes. Before I was a grandma, I was a mommy, and your mommy was my little girl and now my little girl is grown up and is your mommy.”

This is the strangest thing the kid has ever heard. Naturally, I try to help by putting it in context.

“Your mommy was a little girl and I was her mommy a long time ago before you were born.”

Turns out, this is a horrible follow-up. There is no more disturbing statement for young children than to hear there was a time when they didn’t exist.

In an attempt to clarify, I muddle things even more. “Yes, I was your mommy’s mommy and Grandpa was her daddy.”

This is too much. Not only is the child to believe that Grandma was once a mommy, but that grandpa was once a daddy. Hey, the kid has eyes and she’s thinking there’s no way the two of them were ever that young!

The child gives me the once over and slowly says, “So you were a mommy . . . Grandpa was a daddy . . .  and Mommy was one of your kids?”

“Exactly!” I shout.

Silence. The wheels are turning.

“Then, before you were a mom . . . were you a kid, too?”

“Yes!” Wisely, I keep my mouth closed about being a kid so long ago it is what we now call the “last century.” There’s only so much backward time travel small children can comprehend.

“So, Grandma, when you were a kid, did you have other kids in your family?”

“Yes. John was my brother.”

“You mean Big John?”

“Yes, Big John was my little brother.”

“How could he be your little brother when he’s bigger than you and we call him Big John?”

“He wasn’t always bigger. As a matter of fact, I am three years older and for a long time I was bigger than he was and I would boss — oh, it doesn’t matter what Grandma used to do to her little brother, because he grew way bigger and he’s still making me pay for teasing him years ago. The main thing is to be kind to your brothers and sisters no matter who is older or younger or bigger or smaller.”

Satisfied, smiling and with a twinkle in her eye, she dashes off to the front room where her cousins are playing and shouts, “Guess what? Grandma used to be a kid!”

Nailed it on the worry front

Our son is building a house. As his parents, we are pleased with this accomplishment, but it has also caused us sleepless nights and worry.

Probably because we know our son. Or at least the kid he was growing up. He was the one who assembled things without reading directions, the one who selectively applied himself in high school and splatter painted a pair of shoes in college and tried to convince us it was art.

Yep. That was the look we had, too. You do what you can.

Today he is a registered architect. He’s worked on small projects, big projects and his company jets him all around to check on all sorts of projects.

Why worry? He does modern, that’s why. Sometimes modern is hard to understand.

His original house design involved using materials like burnt wood and weathered metal.

We asked why he wouldn’t use new materials on a new house. We watch the home design channel; we know those materials are hip, but we asked anyway.

We also worry the roof is flat.

He says it’s not flat, it has a slight incline.

Once it’s finished, we’ll probably drive by after the first heavy snow to see if the snow slid off or is piling on the roof and the roof about to collapse on his wife and kids, and we should evacuate them.

They are building in the middle of the woods and we worry there are trees too close to the house, that the trees will one day be old and brittle and fall on the house.

He cites the species of the trees and says they will live many, many years.

We worry because the house has extremely large windows and we’ve seen the speeds his kids reach and how they ricochet off the walls.

He calmly says the glass is thick and the kids will be fine.

The other night I woke up wondering how expensive an insurance premium might be on a house with wood exterior. I decided to call our insurance company in the morning and ask a few questions. Not wanting anyone to know I was checking up on a grown son, I decided I wouldn’t give my name.

The voice on the other end of the line answered and said, “Hello. Is this Lori?”

Caller ID. So much for remaining anonymous.

An agent fielded my questions and assured me there would be no problem, especially since the location was not far from a fire department.

The husband asked what I found out.

“I found out what we’ve suspected all along—the kid knows what he’s doing.”

“I wondered if that wasn’t the case,” he said.

“No need to mention any of our concerns to him,” I say. “Besides, we’ll probably have a list of new concerns next week.”

When appliances are washed up

We need a new washing machine, but one does not simply dash out and buy a new machine these days, one first does research.

I know this because I tried dashing out and buying one without doing my research. The clerk asked how big, how powerful, how many cycles and how much I wanted to spend. All I could really tell her was my price range. She led me to a small portable machine on wheels that might hold two dishtowels.

Who knew prices had gone up since we last bought one 20 years ago? It’s a new form of money laundering.

Now, having spent weeks doing late-night reading, analysis and comparisons, I realize I did not study this hard for college exams.

Washing machines filling my brain has made me a thrilling conversationalist. I am happy to talk about cubic-foot capacity, spin versus pulse agitation, front load and top load.I can also talk about RPMs, but what shoppers really want to know about is SLPL— Socks Lost Per Load.

Machines have grown more complex in recent years with some models now featuring apps and Wi-Fi connection. Your washing machine can text you the status of the laundry, setting off a ding on your phone or tablet. You then race through the house or rummage through your purse looking for your phone, which is so much more convenient than having to walk over and look at the machine yourself.

Full surrender to smart assistants like Alexa is only a short time away.

Alexa: Start my playlist.

Alexa: Turn on the lights.

Alexa: Check on the laundry.

Alexa: Live my life.

Until smart assistants take total control, we will continue to pore through online ratings and reviews and scroll through questions and answers on everything from light bulbs to shoes and printer cartridges. We all want to know what we’re getting and if it will last.

Both of our grown daughters have gone through two washing machines in their first 10 years of marriage, claiming nothing lasts like it should. Often when they are here, they look around the house and remind us to keep everything that is old. For a long time, we thought they were talking to us about each other, but they mean our old appliances.

We would keep all our appliances if we could, but we can’t. Our present washing machine is so rickety it rocks the entire house on spin cycle. That agitates the dryer sitting next to it and then they both shimmy closer and closer toward the wall until we can’t get the louvered door in front of the dryer open. I can see the clean, warm, clothes, I just can’t touch the clean, warm clothes.

All we really want is a basic washer without all the bells and whistles that is reasonably quiet and stays in one place.

Alexa: Find us a docile washing machine. Then do the laundry.

Heart-shaped boxes held more than candy

My dad gave my mom a beautiful heart-shaped box of candy every year on Valentine’s Day. Big red and pink boxes with swirls of lace and wide satin ribbons.

The beautiful boxes were mesmerizing. I drooled over them. Literally. Chocolate mint truffles, caramels and raspberry-filled. The small candies tucked beneath the quilted paper liner were a beauty to behold.

Mom and Dad weren’t big gift givers with one another, but every year he bought her a box of candy for Valentine’s Day. I think he thought it was just how a guy treated his gal. And she was always his gal.

When I was growing through an awkward phase, my right leg often tripping over my left, and my left leg, in turn, tripping my right, my dad gave me a heart-shaped box of candy, too. It was a smaller version of Mom’s—a pink heart with ruffled trim and a satin ribbon.

Perhaps he thought my awkward phase would be permanent, limit possibilities down the road and it could be the only Valentine’s candy I got. It didn’t matter. Those pretty boxes made me walk a little taller, which was important for a girl who was short. I felt more confident. Like maybe I could finally do the required rope climb all the way to the ceiling in gym class. I couldn’t; but I didn’t care because I had a heart-shaped box of candy declaring I was loved.

Through grade school, middle school and high school, when Mom got a box for Valentine’s, I got a box, too. Even when I went away to college. Even when I moved cross country.

“I’m grown now, Dad. You can stop.”

Even when I married. “I have a husband who buys me candy, Dad. You can stop.”

“I know,” he said on the phone.

“I know,” Mom said, on the extension. It was a team operation and always had been.

Still the heart-shaped boxes kept coming.

Our two little girls began getting boxes, as did my sister-in-law.

“It’s time to stop!” we cried in unison.

Still the boxes came. We stashed the empties on closet shelves, in the dress-up trunk and under the beds. Dad and Mom realized too late in life that they should have invested in chocolate.

Then one year, they called and said, “We’re not sending the heart boxes anymore. We’re not going to be around forever. We’re going to stop now to get you used to that idea.”

They were funny like that. Painfully practical and to the point. A few years later they were both gone.

As for chocolate, we are well cared for by the husband who tends to us courtesy of a nearby local chocolatier.

But to this day, whenever I see a heart-shaped box with a swirl of lace and a satin ribbon, my heart swells and I pray that every little girl might have a dad, or an uncle, or a grandpa who finds a sweet way to say, “I love you.”

All our old heart-shaped boxes are gone now, but the love remains.