Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Family’s Circle of Life

Great Grandma and Her Great Granddaughters

My mother-in-law, AKA Gigi, turned 87 the first week of January.

I recently had the pleasure of observing two of her great grandchildren, girls almost 1-½ and 2-½ years old. Although geographically separated by hundreds and thousands of miles, Gigi and her great granddaughters have a lot in common.

Let me count the ways –

The youngest GGD is learning to walk, taking timid steps forward with both hands outstretched in front of her, walking slowly, swaying side to side like a movie zombie.

Gigi walks deliberately, slowly, step by carefully placed step, hands outstretched to the right and left, tottering and rocking side to side.

The young girls are usually avid eaters, although the older one sometimes decides she is not really hungry and picks at her food. Both girls are always excited about enjoying a snack anytime of the day.

Gigi is not and has never been a great eater, picking at her food. But the past couple of years she has become an enthusiastic snacker, enjoying Hershey’s kisses and hard candies throughout the day.

Both girls take naps. Gigi enjoys daily extended snoozes.

The girls get tired if hauled around for a good part of the day. They enjoy the activity but get worn-out and cranky.

Gigi tires easily when her schedule includes more than the daily routine of meals, naps, a Bingo game and some conversation. Include an outing and by early evening she is exhausted and irritable.

All the girls love cellphones. The younger ones play with the instrument, make believe they are talking on it, and insist on listening when someone calls. Gigi answers when she hears the phone ring and (sometimes) enjoys talking. She does not know how to locate recent calls, listen to her messages or find someone’s number.

None of the girls prepare their own meals. The younger ones rely on Mom, Dad or other big people. Gigi relies on her assisted living facility. All the basic amenities of life are provided by the younger ones’ Mom and Dad, and Gigi’s assisted living facility.

They all dress themselves with varying levels of success. The youngest allows Mom and Dad to do the honors. The 2-½ -year-old insists on dressing herself and usually does an adequate job, accepting help only when reaching the point of total frustration when attempting to don certain items of clothing – mittens for example. She has strong opinions about what she wants, and does not want, to wear. Gigi is the same way, sticking with familiar, comfortable, timeworn clothing. Her closet is full of almost-new, clean clothes she refuses to wear.

All three have wild, curly hair. The younger ones have yet to have a hair cut, and the older one rarely gets one.

There are some differences between the generations too -

The younger ones are beginning to interact with others – siblings, extended family members, neighbors, day care and nursery school pals – building a constantly expanding social network.

Gigi’s social life, on the other hand, is contracting. She contends she has had lots of friends throughout her life and does not need more and certainly not any new ones now.

Gigi has been in the process of shedding belongings. The girls are just beginning to collect treasures.

There are many pursuits and things Gigi does not understand. Recently we explained e-mail to her. She does not have a computer – and does not want to have anything to do with one - and therefore cannot view pictures of her great grandchildren on Facebook, or receive e-invites to their birthday parties.

The younger ones do not understand these things yet either, but are learning very quickly. They are going to be e-linked and better connected than their great grandmother, grandparents, and probably their parents.

A distinctive bond stretches across the generations and links the girls together in curious ways.

No one knows what kind of world awaits Gigi’s great granddaughters, but it will be very, very different from the one Gigi, one of three daughters of Russian immigrants, was born into nine decades ago.

And it will be a different world from the one their grandmother – me – was born into at the midpoint of the 20th century.

Each generation goes further than the generation 
preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation
…Ronald Reagan


  1. What a beautiful analogy!! What goes around, comes around.... Ah the wonders of life!

  2. I notice the same thing in my own closet: lots of clothes almost new I never wear. I don't snack all day long on sweets like you do, but if I have a problem with one of my electronic gadgets, I ask a kid to help! Great post, I really enjoyed it. :-)

  3. Beautiful girls. As my oldest granddaughter turns 24 this year, I wonder if I will live long enough to become a great-grandma. Dianne

  4. Beautiful girls. As my oldest granddaughter turns 24 this year, I wonder if I will live long enough to become a great-grandma. Dianne