They say grand-parenting is grand. So I’ve been told a thousand times by friends whose worlds have been changed by their children’s children. We have names waiting for the tender voices of our grand little ones. My name is Bubs and Karen is Keke. Who knows if those names will stick. The only thing I do know is the rules of engagement will soften and we will spoil them without shame. Which reminds me of a lesson in creative tolerance taught to me and my siblings by a principled mom and an iron-clad dad who once struck my backside with a King James Version of the Bible without any regard for metaphor…it was simply available and near his reach.
Before we built our home on a 12 acre tract on the old Philson Farms ranch, we wandered the grounds with the kids and our dog imagining our future home. We found the bleached skeletons of cattle piled in a place our kids called the boneyard. My Dad was a homebuilder so we didn’t stay put in one home very long. And yet, I remember most of those homes very well because of the stories told of the times spent in those homes. My Mom recently shared with me an old blueprint of our home at 1515 Mission Drive. It’s a real blueprint made with ammonia and a smell that will clean out your nose. As I remembered those bedrooms and spaces I spied the room under the stairs that was legendary among our friends. This tiny space under the stairs to this day is probably unpaintable due to crayon graffiti. The walls were autographed with crayon by our friends as a gesture of inclusion, an “I was here” moment. Every friend who entered our home signed that wall with an artistic flourish. It was a rite of friendship and a test of our parents’ patience. But once the tradition began, it became famous and unstoppable. And I never heard a word from Mom or Dad telling us to stop. Maybe that was my first lesson in grace. And I learned that doing memorable things with one another is more important than clean walls.
As much as those memories of places where I’ve lived mean to me, I can never really go back home. Those days are over and gone and I loved them, yet life surges onward. Before we built our current home on these 12 acres, I stood alone with a shovel in my hands leaning against my truck. Under the shade of a hundred year old oak tree under which my daughter would be married someday, I pressed my forehead against the hood of my truck and wept. Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”
I had no idea what lay ahead of us in this place that now held the remains of a tailless feline that I had never asked for yet had come to love. He turned up at our home as a stray making his throne comfortable on the seat of our Murray riding mower, so we named him Murray. And when he grew old and sick, quivering in pain, suffering, it was time to go home. So I brought Murray here to rest at this spot under an oak at the corner of Philson Hollow pond, on this land where we would one day live.
I remembered that moment 14 years later looking down upon a host of wedding guests surrounding that oak tree, as a young man waited on me to bring his bride down the hill and across the bridge. I thought of Murray the cat, his burial spot not far from where the guests waited, and I decided that I wanted to remain light-hearted. I looked at my daughter and said let’s dance down the hill. We were both wearing blue sneakers (her nickname is Blue) and we twirled and spun and sashayed toward the waiting guests down below. It was sheer joy. Not a moment of sadness in giving away my daughter. Just happiness. Later we danced the father and daughter dance and we invited other fathers and daughters onto the dance floor. And I watched those dads get all misty eyed. I may have gotten a little misty eyed also.
Jenna lives in Atlanta now. She is a Dietician. She tells people how to eat well. Which she has done all her life anyway. And now, this land that was once the home of cattle and old bones is a place of priceless memories. My daughter just sent me a picture of her child inside her womb. Baby Charlotte Ann has a pug nose, and soccer thighs, like her mom. She is named after her grand matriarchs.
I think about the circle of life. How we cry over seemingly little things like saying goodbye to a pet, and big things like my dad passing. And I’m grateful for all of it. Even though I can’t go home, I remember those moments like they were yesterday. I’m glad that Mom and Dad let our friends contribute to the decor of our home, and that there is a place in my heart with non-erasable crayon art. Everyone needs a closet under the stairs where you can color your name into the tapestry of that particular place, a place to weep next to a still pond, a hill to dance down, a place to consider new life to come. I’m still figuring that out along with my children and their children. Come on Charlotte Ann! The crayons are ready! We’ve got a lot of coloring to do!