My first grandchild, Claire, turned 11 years old yesterday. And while I mostly, and not altogether reluctantly, accept that she’s 11, I will always cherish her younger childhood. I wrote this on March 17, 2010. I remember and I still feel this day in my heart.
Claire, 2 years, 5 months old – Visiting Grammy in Clarion PA
I used to think of walking as merely a way to get from point A to point B or a means of exercise. Sometimes both. A walk is a walk is a walk… That is, until I walked with Claire.
The girl doesn’t know it, but she always knows exactly what to do and say to put things in perspective.
We decided to walk uptown to the post office and library. She put on her Dora sneakers and tan jacket, and I surprised her with new purple mittens with hearts and rainbows that I bought her on winter clearance. This made her very happy.
I put on my pink backpack loaded with the envelopes that needed to be mailed, my phone, and some money since I was pretty sure I had library fines to reconcile. Claire put on her Dora backpack and off we went.
The weather was lovely – sunny and about 40 degrees. Since sidewalks are inconsistent for the first few blocks, we cut down an alley to avoid street traffic. As we passed a garage, Claire asked, “Where’d my shadow go?”
“What, honey?” I asked.
She stopped. “My shadow, Grammy.”
Shadow? But of course! I hadn’t thought about my shadow since I was a kid.
“It’s hidden by the garage,” I told her. “Let’s move back into the sunshine.”
“There it is! It’s big!” she said. “You have a big shadow, too, Grammy!” and she waved. “See my hand?”
I waved back with both hands. She giggled.
“I see your fingers in the shadow,” she said.
When we turned the corner we were back on a sidewalk and our shadows were in front of us. Claire hopped over each crack for the rest of the block, thrilled that her shadow kept up with her.
We got to a corner and had to cross a street. I was holding her hand and was just going to walk her across when it dawned on me that I could teach her how to properly cross a street.
“Always stop before walking out on to the street,” I said. “Look to your left. Do you see a car coming?”
Looking very concentrated, Claire peered down the street. “No,” she said seriously.
“Now look to your right. Any cars?”
“OK, that means we can cross safely.”
We walked down a street I’ve walked for years, but I’d never really noticed that the old Victorian house on 7th Avenue was blue or the rental next door had green trim until Claire pointed it out. Then she spied tiny purple flowers in the next yard.
“Those are crocuses,” I told her.
“Crocheches,” she repeated. Close enough.
I wouldn’t have noticed them on an ordinary walk. I long to see them in my own yard after a long winter, but crocuses are even better when you’re not seeking them out, and spectacular when you unexpectedly get to introduce them to a 2-year-old who loves the colors purple and green.
“I run real fast, Grammy!” and she took off. I kept up by walking more briskly, but it was fun to let her get to the next house a little before I did.
We were getting close to another corner and she took my hand. We stopped, she looked both ways.
“No cars,” she said, and led me safely to the other side.
We went to the post office first, which is next door to the library. I handed the envelopes to the mail clerk.
Claire pulled on my jeans. “I wanna see.” I lifted her up to sit on the counter.
“I like your mittens,” said the clerk. Saying nothing, Claire smiled and looked down at the hearts and rainbows.
“Can she have a lollipop?” he whispered to me. I nodded.
“Would you like a lollipop?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said rather boldly, and I thought, Yeah, I’ve always preferred candy over compliments, too.
From under the counter, he produced a brown grocery bag. Claire reached in and pulled out a small chocolate flavored Tootsie-Pop. She’s definitely my granddaughter.
“What do you say?” I asked her.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, staring again at her mittens, but he heard her.
Claire insisted I open the wrapper before we left the post office. I didn’t want her to bring it into the library, so we sat on a bench out front and she ate her lollipop.
“A black truck,” she pointed to the street. “That’s Papa’s truck.” Her dad’s dad is Papa and drives a pickup.
“No, that’s not Papa’s truck, but it looks like it,” I said.
“That’s a red car,” she continued and crunched her lollipop.
“Hear that?” she asked.
“That’s a blue jay,” I said.
“Blue jay,” she repeated and took another bite of her lollipop.
After going to the library, we walked home in similar fashion. Birds. Cars. Flowers. Cracks in the sidewalk. Watching Claire observe the world around her, the world I’ve very much taken for granted, I felt a profound sense of belonging. I have a shadow. I know love. Oh that the world could feel such peace.