What I want is not the turkey on the platter, which seems too big for the spot where Grandma is placing it. And how is she carrying it anyway? My weak wrists would never make it, and the turkey would crash onto the floor. I’d let Grandpa carry it and smile sweetly, basking in the oohs and ahs.
What I want is Grandma herself. And Grandpa. How kind and cuddly they look.
The song associated with Thanksgiving is “Over the River and Through the Woods” which continues with “. . . to Grandmother’s house we go.” I never did such a thing. The only time I went to a grandparent’s house was at the time of Grandma Olive’s death and funeral, in Bayonne, New Jersey, when I was four. I played with toy cars in the steep driveway of my grandmother’s home on the bay. That’s what I remember.
When childhood friends said their grandma died, I thought, big deal. I had no heart pocket for such a relationship.
Grandpa Reuben is the only grandparent I remember, and he was not my mom’s biological dad. He was Grandma Olive’s second husband, who happened to be the cousin of her first, my mom’s dad Sidney. Olive didn’t have to change her last name when she married Reuben. I met Grandpa Reuben twice and was in love with him, the way a girl is in love with her grandpa. He was posh in suits but intensely kind.
Is there a word for being a grandchild orphan?
It is an odd and empty feeling not to have met my grandparents. But it is even odder now to contemplate that my grandparents did not meet all of their grandchildren. Dad’s dad was 70 when he was born; he fought in the Civil War in 1865; he died when Dad was 9. Dad’s mom died in the ‘50s before I was born, the last of eight kids. Mom’s biological dad Sidney was divorced from Grandma Olive and far away when we kids came along. Grandma Olive died when I was four; maybe she held me, I don’t remember. Then there was Grandpa Reuben, a fine substitute, but once on his jostling knees and once after his stroke in a wheelchair is it for memories.
Now, I’m going to be a grandma. When I first found out our daughter was pregnant, I thought I would need advice for my new role, since I had no grandparent memories to speak of. But guess what, there seems to be a heart pocket (think cargo pants) for this relationship after all. Strangely enough, while I’m loving my unborn grandson, it's almost like I'm sitting on my own lap, feeling loved.
Note about the painting: "Freedom from Want" was one of four "propaganda" posters by Norman Rockwell inspired by Theodore Roosevelt's speech to Congress January 6, 1941, urging the country to enter World War II. Read more here.