There are moments that stand out, segments of time that will not be surrendered into oblivion like most of the mundane minutia in life. We all have special events that qualify: births, weddings, graduations, promotions, retirements. And, of course, we never forget the tragic events: deaths, accidents, losses, failures, disappointments. Rarely does an ordinary day cross into the memorable category, but I can almost guarantee that time spent with a grandchild will easily succeed.
My almost fourteen-year-old granddaughter, Madison, is working on a career day school project, and I am to be her interview subject. We drive to a local chocolate/coffee shop which seems like a perfect venue—a hot chocolate and brownie sundae for her and a hazelnut cafe au lait and scone for me. The car ride is filled with expressive adolescent chatter about friends, teachers and, of course, boys. I ask her if she is excited about entering high school in the fall, and she responds with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
We sit at a cafe table of her choosing, and she opens her notebook to start the interview. The long slender fingers that flip the notebook pages are graceful and purposeful, no longer the hands of a girl. She tilts her head slightly, her voice measured, her focus direct, as she asks the first question. “When did you know that you wanted to be a nurse?” Her question barely registers. I am struck by repeated glimpses of a more mature Madison. I stare at her and it takes me a beat or two to answer. Her face is no longer childish, but neither is it an adult face. Silver threads of braces cover her teeth, iridescent eye shadow sparkles on her eyelids and her long lashes are covered in mascara; her girlish giggle still lingers, and yet for the first time I see the young woman she will become.
Over the next thirty minutes I answer her interview questions but my mind continues to wander. Memories of a plump, loud, wild, curly-haired, bug-loving, adventure-seeking little girl keeps emerging and contrasts with this slender, graceful, doe-eyed, thoughtful, fashionista, with perfectly straightened hair. It isn’t the physical evidence of her growing maturity that packs the biggest punch, it is something more subtle, more profound.
Madison is leaving the comfort and safety of childhood behind for an unknown future. She is fast approaching that precarious transition from adolescence to adulthood. I realize she’s on the bridge, sometimes taking baby steps, sometimes sprinting. All of life’s major choices and decisions are still head, waiting for her. When I think of this I feel a curious mix of wonder and melancholy. I remember myself so clearly at that age, the thrill, the possibilities I felt. And then, of course, I think of all my disastrous mistakes, my regrets. I remind myself that despite our similarities Madison is not me, she’s less impulsive, smarter, kinder, more thoughtful. She will be a woman in a time of better opportunities for women. I comfort myself with this knowledge, and I hold my breath.
She completes her questions while we devour the last bits of our sweet treats, and all too soon we are heading home. She’s quiet on the return ride, and I suspect her mind is on her project. Then she smiles at me and asks if being a nurse is like Greys Anatotomy. I laugh, and she joins in. I assure her that real life nursing is nothing like the TV show. I see a small spark of disappointment in her eyes and I think about all the disappointing revelations ahead of her. She thanks me and kisses me goodbye, a small peck on the cheek. She opens the car door but instead of leaving she leans across her seat and embraces me in a tight hug. “I love you Grandma!” she says. Her long legs quickly cover the sidewalk to the door. She waves before she enters; I wave back, and she is gone.
I sit in the car for a minute thinking about our time together and wondering what the future holds. Madison will make her share of mistakes on her journey to adulthood and beyond. But unlike the agony of watching your child make mistakes, watching your grandchild make them is somehow less painful. It’s difficult to describe the powerful, all encompassing, yet freeing feeling of loving a grandchild. I relish and sink into that feeling every time I look at her. It’s effortless to fully live every moment we spend together. I appreciate everything about her: the good and the not-so-good. The whole of her delights me.
I drive home with the mingling thrill and trepidation of watching the transformation of the young girl I know so well, into a woman I have yet to fully envision. I will see her life continue to unfold and grow. I will watch her wings unfurl and soar. A smile curls across my lips while tears sting my eyes, I’m grateful to be a part of her future.