It was the best of times.
Grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. Safe. Loved. Happy. Peaceful. Belonging.
Inspiring words that miserably fail to describe this overwhelmingly precious gift of time given to me.
This is dedicated to the only fourteen months of wonderful I would ever know as a child.
Once my grandparents discovered my father’s disclosed secrets, there was no further discussion necessary. To put it succinctly, we three were unwanted by him, but wanted by them. Overnight, their home grew from two to five, and my life story took a sharp right turn down Carefree Childhood Lane. One peaceful day rolled into another, filled with fourteen months of wonderful, full of a child’s innocent curiosities and the discoveries of an unfolding world.
This series of tender childhood memories were created while I felt sheltered, safe and surrounded by love. They would sustain me into adulthood as the undeniable benchmark for the existence and power of authentic, unselfish love in my life. Sadly, I would never again know consistent peace, acceptance and love – until I escaped from my family many years later.
Now, presenting a few wonderfully random memory snippets. I hope they make you smile. At first glance they are nothing extraordinary, but you would be incorrect in your assumption. Actually, they would shape the woman, wife, mother, and friend I would become, because the memory of my memories would compel me to recognize and reject counterfeit love, while pursuing to love others authentically.
the morning race –
As the brightness of the sun pried my sleepy eyes open, I would hear the symphony of morning sounds wafting from the kitchen. I loved the gurgling coffee, clanging of dishes, slamming of drawers, punctuated by an occasional crash, as Grandpa prepared for the next Great Cheerio Race.
Quickly I would extricate myself from Cover Mountain, then race into the kitchen for hugs, kisses and, “Did you have sweet dreams?” While the rest of the house slept, Grandpa and I would dine on Cheerios, usually studded with strawberries, coffee for him and kiddy coffee for me. In case you are wondering, kiddy coffee was a cup of milk with probably one tablespoon of coffee. Believe it or not that is about how light I drink my coffee even to this day. Occasionally we would indulge in the most heavenly bottles of chocolate milk (this will date me) delivered by the milkman.
Breakfast was a race, because a coveted gold star was at stake, and proudly placing it on the poster board chart was the winner’s prize. After the star posting ceremony, Grandpa would shave and I would talk incessantly while he did so. Even though he was preparing for work, he was never rushed or dismissive, but always legitimately interested and engaged in the ramblings of his granddaughter.
the singing heroines –
In the arena of pretend escapades and adventures, I was sorely pathetic. Stuffed animals and baby dolls were my nemesis, because – hello – they aren’t real! Much to my Grandma’s delight, I did eventually fall in love with Wedding Day Barbie and her extensive trousseau in Gandy’s Toy Store. I would spend countless content hours, not playing with her, but happily organizing her outfits and accessories repeatedly in her case. Yes friends, even at three I had a gifting toward organization.
Fear not, I did have singing heroines: Shirley Temple and Mary Poppins. Each and every day, there would be several live performances as I would serenade or scream-sing my songs, all the while whirling and twirling throughout the house. This culminated in the kitchen grand finale sequence: shuffle, tap, twirl, stomp could only be achieved on the super shiny black and pink checkerboard floor. The routine was magnificent and met with rousing applause from my audience each and every time, in spite of the fact that I can neither sing or dance.
Lest you think my obsessions lasted long, they didn’t. Barbie, Shirley and Mary were often temporarily forgotten when I discovered a random life long lack that I needed to fulfill. Remember I was three. One such occasion involved my need to experience dog ownership, which was hysterical since I referred to all dogs as (nasty dogs), obviously due to several horrific encounters with slobbering dog-faces. More on the dog pursuit to follow later.
the conversation stool –
Grandpa had a special Comfy Lumpy Chair, perfect for cuddling grandchildren. Flanked to the right of it was a special something: a small wooden footstool upholstered in a slightly tacky, black and red embossed leatherette fabric. It was a multi-purpose stool; by day a weekly newspaper stand, by night a tired footrest, and occasionally a serious conversation platform for his tiny granddaughter.
Grandpa and I had an agreement with each other; all serious conversations must occur face-to-face so I could look directly into his loving eyes while I talked. I would place my chubby hands on either side of his face, slightly patting his cheeks, and then announce my conversational need. Somehow he managed to suppress his amusement while watching his serious granddaughter struggle to perfectly re-position the stool in front of his chair. Once I was satisfied, he would ceremoniously extend his hand to steady me as I ascended one huge step to firmly stand on the little stool.
Many of my questions would sound foolish and unimportant to other adult ears, but not to Grandpa. He always treated my observations and questions with gentle tenderness and the utmost respect you bestow on someone you love, regardless of their age. Grandpa had an amazing way of always inviting me into his adult world and granting genuine importance to my inquiries. I was never endured, placated, or worse – dismissed. Even at the day’s end, though weary, never was I treated with fatigue-induced impatience. Grandpa lived available and interruptible to those he loved.
In case you are wondering, the need presentation for an illusive dog was definitely a footstool conversation.
the bedtime routine –
I remember the sweet routine of bedtime. Cloaked in footy pajamas, I made the rounds receiving several hugs and double cheek kisses from everyone. Happily I would jump into bed, snuggle and squirm my way under Cover Mountain, while my mom patiently waited for me to announce I was just right. She would stroke my face while engaged in bedtime silly talk, the secret weapon of moms to lull you to sleep. As my eyelids grew heavy, she would tenderly kiss me one more time as I drifted off to sleep, cocooned in a blanket of love and belonging. I lived in a peaceful world, and it made my child’s heart content and happy.
the closing for now –
Sadly, the absence of my father in my daily life didn’t create a void, because it’s difficult to miss someone who was a sporadic, reluctant participant in your family life. I had a father, but not a dad. However, I was blessed to have an incredibly wonderful loving Grandpa, whom I adored.
Grandpa was the first man in my life that I knew honestly loved the child me. When I entered a room, his eyes would twinkle and dance with merriment mixed with and a bit of mischief. His delight was in teasing me, and in short order bellyaching laughter would ensue.
He loved me not because I was special, but his love made me feel special. Isn’t that exactly what authentic love should do? It should be transforming, causing others to feel special, accepted, safe, and wanted.
Friends, never doubt the life transforming power love brings to the heart, mind and life of another. Its brief or extended presence can and will have a lifelong impact. The feelings and memories of those fourteen months were imprinted on my life forever.
my random partial list –
I love the smell of ripe strawberries. I love the color green. I love chubby baby hands. I love God.
love truth –
Authentic love will be safe, comfortable, inspiring, and belonging.
Authentic love is transforming to the heart and mind.
Authentic love is accessible and interruptible.
Until next time,