Last week my son sent me an invitation to Grandparents Morning at his son’s Montessori school. The event started at 9:45 AM. Under the invitation, he texted: Miles wants to invite you. Probably impossible.
Miles is our four-year-old grandson. Let me explain the probably impossible assumption. My son lives in Connecticut. We live on Long Island. The path from here to there is not an easy one. Between the ubiquitous lane closures for roadwork/construction, and the certainty of accidents along the way, combined with the slog of rush hour traffic, we would have to leave the house by 6:00 AM to arrive in Connecticut on time for Grandparents’ Morning. I felt a headache coming on just thinking about it. Probably impossible was probably true.
Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but my husband and I are both retired now. The pace of life has changed significantly for us. For one thing, we don’t rush anywhere anymore. That’s a privilege we’ve finally earned, and there isn’t a morning that we don’t appreciate the quiet, unrushed, peaceful start of a new day.
We sip our coffee and update each other on our minor aches and pains: my legs were cramping last night, my shoulder hurts this morning, I’m still constipated, I have a dull headache. Not all of these ailments happen on the same day; these are just the most common. On any given day, any one of those ailments would be deterrent enough to any long-distance travel. (Anything over 30 minutes is long-distance travel).
As we sip our coffee, we read the paper, start the crossword puzzle, continue reading the paper, eat breakfast, and wait for the gastrointestinal highlight of the day – the morning bowel movement – hereafter referred to as our “business.”
Now that we are retired and don’t have to watch the clock in the morning, we don’t leave the house until we’ve both done our “business.” We will check each other’s status before embarking on a long trip:
“Did you do your business yet?”
“No; not yet.”
“Yes. I’m ready to go.”
“Well let’s wait a while. I feel something brewing. There’s no rush, is there?”
“No rush! Take your time.”
With a morning routine such as this, to be ready to leave the house by 6:00 AM, we would have to be up at 4:00 AM! That would mean a lot of rushing around and bumping into each other in the dark. Probably impossible was probably true.
As I picked up the phone to reply, I reread the invitation: Miles wants to invite you. That was the catch that tugged at my heart. After two years of missed holidays, zoom birthdays and canceled celebrations, we were beginning to worry that COVID would be around forever, that our grandchildren would grow up to be adults before we could visit with them again. I showed the message to my husband. Miles wants to invite you.
“Miles wants to invite us?” he said. “We’ve hardly seen that kid in two years; I didn’t think he knew who we were!” Miles is our youngest grandchild. We haven’t seen him as much as we would like, as much as we’ve seen the other grandchildren through the years. He was two-years-old when COVID started, and the few times we saw him during COVID, we were wearing face masks and holding our arms out in midair giving safe distance “air hugs.” There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about that, certainly not enough to build a loving relationship on.
“Well?” I asked. “Do you want to go?”
“Of course I do! Miles invited us!”
A simple solution solved all of our pressing travel issues. The day before Grandparents’ Morning, after a leisurely breakfast – our business completed – we took a mid-morning drive up to Connecticut – no rush hour, no traffic – and checked into an Airbnb. On Friday morning, we were only 30 minutes away from my grandson’s school. We had plenty of time to sip our coffee at a local diner while discussing our minor aches and pains over a leisurely breakfast. Back at our Airbnb we took care of business.
At my grandson’s school that morning, he lined up with the other students to sing an endearing song to us grandparents. Then we went to his classroom so he could show us something he was working on. But the highlight of the day was the surge of love I felt when he reached up to take my hand and lead me into the auditorium to make a craft. It had been so long since I held a tiny hand in mine; I never wanted to let go.
For our craft time, he rolled a sheet of beeswax around a small wick and made a candle. “That’s great!” I praised him. “Will you take this home to mommy?”
“No,” he said, handing me the little candle. “I made it for you.”
On the way home, I kept thinking back to the feeling I had when I held his tiny hand in mine. Why was I so moved, almost to tears, when it happened? It could be that two years of COVID’s isolation protocols had numbed me; I hadn’t felt the slow growth of a hard shell around my heart. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the soft touch and love hugs of grandchildren. When he reached for my hand, it took all my self-control to not reach down and lift him up into my arms, to hold him there for a long time, to make up for two years of “air hugs” that were no substitute for a good strong grandma hug.
We headed home after lunch and plodded through several delays from accidents, lane closures, construction and the slog of Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. After four hours, we finally reached home. Was it all worth it? You bet it was!