God willing, I will be a grandmother sometime next spring. So the picture I’ve chosen, the one that most moved me this year, is my unborn grandchild lying contentedly in my daughter’s womb.
I’ve twinned it with a picture of my daughter with her grandmother, my mother. I hope – pray, really – that I can be as important in the life of my grandchild as my mother was in my daughter’s.
My mother had gone blind by the time my daughter was born so she did not act as the all-purpose unpaid nanny I had anticipated. Nonetheless, she had an impact. My daughter Eva and her cousins learned early that they had to watch out for their blind grandmother, not the other way around – a useful lesson for overly indulged upper-middle-class kids.
“Don’t take her arm. Let her take yours,” they learned when accompanying her on walks. They had to fetch her lunch, pour her tea, help her to the lady’s room, good practice for responsible compassionate adulthood.
But what made the relationship between my mother and my daughter particularly special was a shared love of books and reading. My mother was a writer. My daughter was 10 or so when she read my mother’s first book, a memoir written decades ago that chronicled her life growing up black in the segregated south and moving west after World War II to raise her family here in Sacramento.
Eva, who is half-white and half-black and ethnically ambiguous in appearance, loved the book. She took it with her whenever she went away. It became a convenient device she could use to introduce herself to new acquaintances. A way to avoid the awkward but inevitable question – “What are you, anyway?”
In 2007, when I republished my mother’s memoir, my daughter became her grandmother’s most enthusiastic fan and dogged promoter. One summer we three – my mother, my daughter and I – visited two dozen libraries in the Central Valley, a book tour Eva arranged and promoted. Our road show became a three-generational chat that delighted audiences. As that magical summer unfolded, I watched my shy, insecure daughter grow into a confident young woman who could stand before large audiences and tell her grandmother’s story with pride and self-assurance.
She taught me things, too. I was forever “helping mom,” trying to explain things to the audience when I thought her 90-year-old brain was lagging. Eva would tell me, “Ssh, Mom – let Grandma talk!” And she was right. My mother did just fine.
I don’t expect to write any memoirs, and I certainly don’t want to go blind to achieve that special connection with my grandson or granddaughter. (My daughter and her husband are keeping the gender a secret.)
My own grandchild will have to settle for me – a confused old lady with aching knees but open arms and boundless love.
Ginger Rutland retired last year after 25 years as an editorial writer for The Sacramento Bee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.