Five years ago…
On a snowy day just before Christmas, my wife, Sarah, and I came to visit my parents. Actually, it was my wife and I and our dog, Sam. We were allowed to visit without him, but we had the good sense not to.
We realized early-on in our marriage that my parents viewed Sam as their proto-grandson, and it was his favorite place to go.
He’d be wheezing and gasping as he pulled on his leash. He wanted to get up their sidewalk as fast as he could. My mom never took what would happen next as an insult.
“Hi Sam!” my parents would say as they opened the front door. His four furry legs would be scrambling at full speed as soon as he hit the wood floor. In a cartoonish fashion, he’d skid around the corner into their kitchen to check out his bowl.
Sure enough, there was always a treat waiting for him. He was at Grandma’s house.
Switch to present day…
“Hi Owen!” say my parents as my son races past them, around the same corner at full speed and into the family room where there is always a present waiting for him.
But it’s actually not about the presents. After wrangling with packaging and getting a milkshake, Owen always ends up hugging my mom and getting into her lap. There is always time for playing with Grandpa on the floor.
It was the same with Sam. He’d end up in Mom’s lap, licking her face, or sitting with my dad in his chair.
There’s a reason it’s worth going “over the river and through the woods” to Grandma’s house. If there is a place where it’s OK to still have a bottle while your parents are switching you to big boy cups, Grandma’s house is it.
It’s a place that always feels like a holiday and always smells like cookies. A grandparent’s love is a certain kind of love. It exists outside of a child’s struggles to grow up and outside of a parent’s worries about the future. It’s just a safe, cozy bubble.
Children and parents may lock horns in their separate roles over the years, but the interactions between grandparents and grandkids is where the family’s love gets to shine.
Everyone understands this and is complicit in the pact. The endless supply of cookies and toys won’t spoil the children.
You can stuff your face with cake at your grandparents’ house because while you’re there it’s not a school day and you have no chores.
The magic of childhood still comes back to me whenever I see or speak to my own Grandma.
It’s just like this anonymous Irish saying that I found: “Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.”