We’re studying Mexico with our homeschool coop right now, and learning about butterflies and their migration patterns as well as Mexican culture. We found a book from the library called “Ghost Wings” that tells a story of a little girl who loves to visit the circle of magic (where the monarchs winter) with her abuela (Grandmother). Her grandmother dies as the monarchs migrate north, and then return as the girl is celebrating the Day of the Dead (Dia de los muertes) with her family. A butterfly lands on her arm and reminds her of the things she was forgetting about her grandmother, the smell of cornmeal and roses, the way her grandmother would chase away the monsters under her bed. The butterflies, said abuela, carry the souls of the old ones.
Reflecting on grandparents this morning, on the special roles they play in a kid’s life. Thinking about how sad it is that our parents live so far away from our family, so that our kids only see them a couple times a year. Wishing we were close enough to have supper together on a regular basis. But also, reflecting on how amazing it is that I am turning forty and still have two living grandparents, and one who died just last fall. Remembering some things about being a kid visiting those grandparents, or having them visit us, and how special those times where. Waiting on the couch after school watching every car coming around our corner hoping Nana and Papa would come soon. Arguing with my sister about who got to sit with which grandparent at meals. Seeing my Papa grab my Nana’s butt (even at 75, they still had it going on).
Cheating at Go, Fish. Breaking toothpicks out of Papa’s mouth. Singing old hymns as Nana played the organ, loving my Papa’s voice. The way they would always buy orange and grape pop for the grandkids. Visiting on the farm and loving every minute of it. Making crank calls to the adults from the basement with all of my cousins (thinking we were so, so sneaky). Stealing candy from the candy jar and trying to not let the lid make any sound (it was always harder to put it back on than it was to take it off). Looking for four leaf clovers in the grass with Mormor. Singing you are my sunshine. Sharing coffee from a beautiful teacup in her bed. Being spoiled rotten. Waffles and sausages. The candy bowl that was filled numerous times each visit without a word to the girls about the disappearing contents. Little gifts slipped into a hand while a hug was given (bittersweet these, very much appreciated but also felt like she was wanting to buy our love a bit, when we always loved her so much). Eating sun warmed tomatoes and peppers from the garden. Watching the Nature of Things with Lorne Greene while Grandpappy sat in Archie’s chair. Long fingernails on backs warmed by the fire. The line of hummels, and crystal birds overlooking the lake. Rides in the tractor. Midnight supper. Toast with honey and sharp cheddar cheese, cut into fingers by old man hands. Gentleness, kindness. “Hate is a strong word”.
I wonder at the legacy of it all really. Those memories of these people that I feel so lucky to know. I wonder what memories my kids will have of their grandparents, what bits and pieces will shine through the years and make them teary as they read storybooks about butterflies to their own kids.