Full Circle

I wait for blogs to come to me. I hope for them.  When I go months without one, I feel guilty as though I have failed my readers. That is silly, of course.  Really.  I am not your weekly anticipated op-ed or Anna Quindlen column.

But God, how I’d love to be.

babiesTonight I had dinner with old friends at a cozy local pub. Soon after we sat down, talk drifted to our grandchildren. And other friends walking by chimed in about theirs and iphones flew out, pictures were passed around, voices became more animated and joy was shared.

I thought.  Oh my.  We have come full circle.

One of the ladies at the table was a friend who used to hitchhike about the country. Alone and uninhibited. Blonde and happy and free as a bird. Male drivers, female drivers, pick ups trucks, semis–nothing daunted her.  Her baby pictures were the first to show up.  Hers were some of the proudest. From seventies liberated chick to grandmother. Just like that. A blink. A blur.

I ordered Christmas cookies this year, as I did last, from my college suite mate who was the sassiest girl I had ever met at that point in my life  She wore a kimono as her robe and sang like an angel in the shower.  She snuck boys up the fire escape in an all female dorm. I adored her spunk. Her cigarettes.  Her joie de vivre. She was exotic. And now she is back home with her beloved mama making hand-cut sugar cookies. She even admitted to me recently, she doesn’t like to “merge” on highways and often takes the backroads.

Another high school buddy, who had her share of uninhibited youthful escapades, makes sausage now. Like her daddy. And her grandfather. And probably his. She is the backbone of her community and works hard for clean water and fair trade and lends a generous hand to all those who need it. When the city’s main water source was polluted by corporate monsters for months, she and her Uncle Dewey handed out crates of free bottled water from her factory dock.

We all rebel in some way, at some time against all we needed, loved and believed in. And then, most often in the end, we do what we know.  We come back.  We come back to some part of those who loved us best. Who shaped us. Gave us the chutzpah to stick out our thumbs on a freeway or buy a pack of Winstons on the sly.

And if we don’t return, we miss it.  Even if the people that formed us broke our hearts or, intentionally or unintentionally, tried to take our souls. Messed with our minds or confused us. Inspired us to turn right when our hearts craved what the enticing left offered.

We miss that familiar sound of the familiar. And we come back.

It’s a good thing to come home to that intrinsic part of ourselves. For me, it keeps me sane. I often joke that I open my mouth and my mother talks. I view a situation in a way I never did before and I hear her voice in my head. I look in the mirror and remember her saying her reflection didn’t match the 25-year-old girl that still lived in her heart.

And now I understand.

I understand her unabashed adoration for her grandchildren because I have my own now.  I understand the joy of loving a child, a tiny human miracle, without the angst of making it perfect or changing its dreams. No desire to guide its direction in life. Just a heart full of boundless love and awe. Grandchildren are our gift for our own sleepless nights and driver’s license tests and “wherearetheywhenwilltheycomehomewhydonttheycall.”

They are our gift for hanging in there.  Through medical crises, marriage crises, death, disappointment, loss and renewal. These babies are a welcome tonic for the unsettling understanding that we are the older generation now. With few left to look up to and seek for guidance. But many to thank and look back upon with grateful hearts and a new understanding of how hard it is to do all of this gracefully.

Now it is our turn to be the guide. And sometimes just watch it happen.

Because that’s how people and traditions and families survive.  And hope remains.

We pass the baton to the new ones.  The next generation. Whether they are our own babies or students or neighbors, these fresh, innocent faces are who will bring on the future. Embrace it and love it. Mold it to make their own version of history.

And hopefully, occasionally, they will hear our voices in their heads.