By Laura Claverie
All this grandma wants for Christmas is time with her grandson
It is often said that best gifts come in the most unexpected times, wrapped in the most unusual ways. And when I think of the many gifts a grandchild brings, I feel the spirit of the holiday season year-round.
We grandmothers often talk about the new layer of life our grandchildren have added. One friend of mine often says her grandchildren are “God’s gift for surviving parenthood.” Another friend quietly wishes she could have started with grandchildren first and just skipped the “whole parenting thing.” Neat trick if she could have pulled that off! Others, like me, feel that motherhood-rush all over again, without any of the worries of parenting. I find that Rylan has brought a whole new wave of opportunities to rewrite a chapter of my life, and in that way, he is the gift of a lifetime.
My mother had a cockeyed way of loving all aspects of babies. When changing a stinky diaper, she always said cheerfully, “The little nuns at my school used to say, ‘this is the first gift your baby can make for you!’” I was never that enthusiastic about the task of diaper changing, but I got her drift.
The best gift that Rylan (and someday, I hope, his siblings and cousins), Papa and I can give one another is our time. Papa and I don’t take it for granted that our first grandchild lives in our hometown, a gift that many of our friends do not have. We’ve made spending as much time with him as possible a priority. Whether it be a short jaunt through the park in the late afternoon or a sleepover with lots of playtime, a dinner out and lots of cuddling, we make each moment with him count.
On Christmas Day many of our relatives and close friends will gather at our home. We span three generations with ages from cousins who are 70+ years to Rylan, 26 months. No doubt, our grandson will be the star of the show. Since Katrina, we’ve banned the formal coat-and-tie in favor of more casual attire and we’ve eliminated a lot of the gift giving. It’s a more relaxed kind of a day. We just like hanging out and being together, and of course, watching the little guy try to figure out who’s who and what’s what. Like most toddlers, Ry-Guy will be more entertained by the empty boxes, crumbled paper and tree lights than with any of the gifts we fretted over.
In the past two years, Rylan has given us such joy. He’s done this by just being a cute fella who, through the grace of God, came into our world and rocked it, like no one else since his dad and Aunt Steph. It’s that old, unqualified love thing all over again, only better.
A few weeks ago, Rylan was at our house for a sleepover. Around three in the morning he uncharacteristically woke up and started yelling my name. “Yaaaa-Ya! Yaaaa-Ya!,” he shrieked. I tried to ignore it, hoping he would go back to sleep, but he didn’t. So I broke a rule: I tip-toed into his room and held him. For a few minutes, I rocked him and remembered those precious times when I rocked my own babies late at night. Those quiet moments in the darkness are such a gift. I can still feel those little breaths bouncing on my neck.
About 15 minutes after I returned him to his crib, he piped up again! “Yaaaa-Ya! Yaaaa-Ya!,” he boomed. I tried to let him cry it out for a few minutes, but again, broke that rule and picked him up. This time, I gently placed him in bed between Papa and me, intending to rub his back until he knocked off to sleep, just as we did with our own babies. Rylan curled into my chest, and before I knew it, we were both sound asleep. A few hours later, I woke up and realized Ry had been there all night and said to Papa, “I can’t believe I did that! But having Rylan there was such a sweet experience!” Papa answered in a wistful, upbeat way, “Yep! It’s been a long time since I’ve awaken with a pee-pee diaper in my face!”
Maybe my mom and the little nuns were right: a baby’s gift comes wrapped in all sorts of packages, any time of the year.
Laura Claverie is a freelance writer and grandmother to two wonderful grandchildren, Rylan and Amelia. She lives in the Garden District.