It’s such a special moment when one of your children does something that makes you proud. I would quickly look in Andrew’s direction if he was there, and without saying a word, we both knew exactly what we were thinking. We used no words, our silent eye exchange said it all.
Then they grew up and had children of their own. I would like to go on record right now saying grandchildren are the best things ever. I hope each and every one of you gets a chance to experience this for yourself. For years, people would tell me that and I don’t think you can fully understand it until you have your own.
My daughter-in-law, Rachelle, was born and raised in the backwoods. Her family lives in Mississippi and is very Southern (“Yes Ma’am, No Sir”). Being polite and having impeccable manners is not only expected, it’s demanded.
If it pleases the reader, I offer this example to validate the difference. When Rachelle first moved to Connecticut with our second son David, I introduced her to all of my friends. She would just sit there in total shock, not saying a word. Everyone assumed it was because she was very unfriendly. It never crossed their minds that she just might not like them! You’ve got to love that confidence. It turned out she thought everybody, “up north” was rude, crude and disrespectful.
She could not believe or understand how we understood each other when we all talked at the same time. Southern children are taught from the time they uttered their first word, never ever interrupt anybody. And the difference in the rules: manners, sociability and lady or gentleman-like behavior went downhill from there. I was born and raised in New Jersey. I am the original “Jersey Girl.” That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it. What’s yours?
Over the years I’ve had opportunities to spend time with her side of the family. We’ve celebrated the holidays, barbecues on the deck in the summer and other such family occasions together. They are warm, friendly and a pleasure to be around. Between you and me, I can understand how Northerners have earned the reputation as uncouth, pushy and rude from their perspective.
When my granddaughter, Julianna, was 2 years and 9 months old (remember that tidbit, it’s important), we were celebrating her mother’s birthday. Her age was her business. Haven’t you heard? It’s impolite to ask a woman what her age or weight is! That rule is etched in stone, regardless of which side you pledge your allegiance, North or South. Even though it was her mother’s birthday, there was a delicious ice cream cake, decorations, streamers, sparkles and balloons to delight and excite the younger audience. Less is never more!
Juliana’s brother Jackson was 13-months old so we had a high chair set up at the table we were using and she was sitting on her knees with her elbows propped up on the table for the celebration. I don’t think Jackson could have cared less about the decorations, but he definitely saw the cake. His sister loved all the decorations, and we all sat around the table singing “Happy Birthday”. Juliana knew every word, it was definitely one of her favorites.
The fact that ice cream and cake followed it helped seal the deal. Jackson clapped his hands and waved both arms over his head. As soon as his mother started cutting the cake, and passing it around, he started kicking his feet on the leg rest of the highchair. He definitely got that stunt from my side of the family!
I was enjoying watching every minute. I don’t remember enjoying any one of my kid’s birthday parties like this. So here’s my take: we were so busy making sure everything was running smoothly, we didn’t get a chance to sit back and just enjoy it. I’m not complaining or judging.
Within minutes, the kids had ice cream, frosting and sprinkles in their hair, up their noses, and in their ears. I had put my fork down, and I was just watching them. Julianna was sitting next to me and noticed I wasn’t eating my ie cream cake. She immediately put down her fork, climbed off her chair and pushed it closer to mine. She then climbed back up on her chair, and said, “Grandma, I help you!” She picked up my fork and started feeding me.
After the first bite, I understood exactly why they had it everywhere on their faces. The second she gave me a bite, she put the fork down and used my napkin to smear the telltale evidence of rouge ice cream cake on my face. She never said a word, but the look in her eye said, “Grandma, you’re a messy eater!” She did say the cutest things.
After the first bite, she asked me, “Good?” I said yes and thanked her for helping, and she went on to complete this task until every bite was done at which point she said, “All done, good job Grandma.” I wiped my face clean (I use the word “clean” generously). Without saying a word she climbed off her chair, moved it back over to where she had been sitting and continued to eat her ice cream cake.
Incredible…who does that? Remember her age; she was not even three years old yet and feeding her grandma birthday cake was more important to her than eating it herself. I want to tell you, I would help any of you at any time if you need assistance eating, after I finished my ice cream cake. I wish I was kidding! She came born with Southern hospitality wired in her DNA. She is 9 years old now and this has never changed. The last time we went out to eat dinner she told Andrew, her grandfather, “It’s ok Grandpa, you go sit on the other side of the table. I’m here if Grandma needs any help.”
She got that empathy from her Southern roots, and I’m so blessed to know her, let alone call her my first grandchild. Like Julianna, we should all focus more on what it means to be humane. Instead of making excuses as nature, focus on nurture. If you enjoyed this story and want more grandma bragging, leave me a message in the comment section! I would love to hear about your grand-babies too!