Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Grandmother Soothers

Tonight's Surreal Moment: I experienced vivid memory flashes of grandmothers I've known calming fussy babies for overwhelmed mothers even as I, for the first time in my life, found myself doing the same. As a grandmother. Hard to wrap my mind around this ancient tradition, this loving service, this sharing, this blessing.

I remember, as a kid, grandmas cuddling babies, cooing into their ears while the babies' mouths screamed in discontent and tiny limbs thrust rigidly into the air. I remember the ladies looking so calm. So very very calm. I didn't understand how they could be so calm, what with that pint-sized being screaming bloody murder into the ears of everyone in the room. I know I was tense. Why weren't they, I wondered.

I remember being the tired mom who needed a break from soothing my baby. I loved my baby with all my heart, but I was so very tired. Sleepless nights, trying to find a new routine, love and exhaustion, and a body recuperating from pregnancy and childbirth. I remember the grandmothers sweetly offering to help. I remember being amazed, once again, at how calm the grannies were, how they, confident and unperturbed, seemed to enter a different seemingly mystical world, child in arms, whispers flowing from experienced lips to delicate baby ears, rhythmic swaying as in a sacred dance which transcended the generations. The women's demeanor befuddled me. It worked! They soothed the baby, every time.

This evening it was my new-mom daughter who was weary from walking the floor with her out-of-sorts baby. I could see the pain in her walk, her back hurt. I could see the fatigue in her eyes; it had been another long day and her husband was away in night school. She looked at me, and I became those grandmas. Unaware of my assertiveness, I offered to take my only grandchild, brand-new, one month old today, red-faced and howling, from my daughter's arms. She gave her willingly, in trust and hope. Normally, I wait for an invitation to hold the baby. My daughter prefers it that way, and I understand. It's her baby. Tonight, I uncharacteristically offered. She gratefully accepted.

As I meandered around our cozy, warmly-lit home, tiny child on my shoulder, I patted and rubbed her back as she cried and squirmed so pitifully. Into her precious ear I spoke grandmother words, words that easily came.

"It's okay if you need to cry. You go ahead and cry, my little bambina. I will stay with you. You are safe. Your mommy needs a rest. Let's give her a rest."

I cooed. I hummed. We swayed. As calm as could be, confident, too.

How did this happen? I have never been comfortable soothing babies other than my own. Normally, I am tense and anxious.

But this evening was different.

I heard my daughter conversing quietly with her dad in the other room. They were confident in me as well. But I felt no pressure. No, instead I imagined gentle hands on my shoulders, hands of all the departed grandmothers in my timeline as if welcoming me to the Grandmother Soothers Club. I had flashbacks of particular women who set the example for me so many years ago, role models. I felt that here was the moment that all those other moments led to: my moment to step up and comfort a grandchild so that my own child could have a respite. I felt such honor! Still do.

To be spiritually connected to my family timeline both forward and backwards, as well as in the present, thrills me and humbles me.

Grandmothers are important. To be a grandmother in the vein of my ancestral grandmothers is my challenge and my goal.

They set the bar quite high.


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