I’m a long-distance grandma – about 3000 miles distant. I get out to CA to see my grand twins once or twice a year. I was about to give up on corrupting them.
My mother gets along great with my daughters – they agree that I’m a hopeless hippie. I was hoping for something similar with my grand daughters. Maybe we could agree that my older daughter is – no need to name it. With 3000 miles between us, I’m just an eccentric visitor who does magic tricks and exercises in the living room and sends books and emails.
But a few days ago, my daughter received an email from a woman I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. “I'm looking for your parents. Please tell them I'd like to contact them. (I also knew you, well enough to change your diapers - and feed you, too)”
I like to think that I’m more web savvy than my daughter, and easier to find – but I guess that’s not true. This email was from a former neighbor from married student housing in Berkeley. We belonged to a babysitting co-op. When you joined the club, you got a stack of cards good for 10 hours of sitting. When you called another member to sit, you paid in cards. When you sat, you were paid in cards. That was over 40 years ago. We did see each other by random happenstance about 10 years later – when we were both visiting Santa Cruz, and saw each other on the sidewalk.
I think about her about once a year – at Passover – because she inspired me to write my own haggadah and to make my own matzos. Her haggadah mentioned that matzos used to be round until the matzo making machine was invented and matzos became square. I figured I could make round ones – and I’ve made them every year since then.
I remember the day she spent lying in bed having sex fantasies and how thrilled her husband was when he came home. And I remember the day we were grocery shopping and my older daughter slipped in front of the dairy case. My daughter looked at me for permission to cry. I picked her up, hugged her, and told her she was alright. Then I put her down. She didn’t cry. Instead she reached into the cheese bin and picked out the cheese she wanted for her sandwiches. She always picked by smell. When I was pregnant with her, I developed an acute sense of smell – particularly for cheese. I would buy a flavor of cheese I’d never had before and eat the whole block on the way home and have to go back to the store for more.
My former neighbor congratulated me on having such a sensible daughter.
But I made no effort to find her and thought she’d forgotten about me. She has a grandson about the same age as my grand twins. She wishes she had grand daughters. She now lives in the same city as my daughter. (She did not know that when she sent her email.) I asked my daughter if she’d like to have a volunteer surrogate grandma for her twins. She said she would, and that it was nice of me to share. I hope my former neighbor still shares my values. I’m not going to pay her in babysitting cards.