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TALKING TO MYSELF 2 October 2013 Our sweet Annelise turns seven today. Her name, like most, has several meanings in the sources I've found, but all definitions aptly include the word "grace." The one I like best is "graceful light" because it seems to capture the essence of this sensitive, kind, intuitive little girl. She's no longer our youngest grandchild, as she was when I wrote the essay below seven years ago. Her brother Hudson came tumbling on her heels when she was two, followed by her cousin Georgia Jane. However, the advice to "Remember Who You Are" is one for all ages and times of life.
Remember Who You Are
Annelise, our youngest grandchild, is finally here. But then, you may have already heard our sigh of relief. She scared us half to death this summer when she tried to get herself born three months too early. Even had she lived, such a premature birth could have left her with deformities and diseases that would have altered the course of her life, so we did all we knew to delay her. Her mother went to bed and stayed there for weeks on end. Her father hovered. Their many friends – Christian, Hindu, Jewish – lifted prayers in ecumenical unison on her behalf.
And me? I went to work cooking casseroles and scrubbing her parents’ kitchen floor. There was no direct connection between my efforts and the baby’s health, but it’s what I’m programmed to do in a crisis.
Mercy rained gently on our family. Annelise was born only two weeks before her due date, healthy and whole, or as her father put it, “perfect.”
Now she is home from the hospital and doing what newborns do best – making all the adults in her world jump to attention whenever she wiggles. Mom and Dad and this come-to-help grandmother aren’t getting a lot of sleep.
I insist she knows she belongs to us because she gets calm and snuggles into our shoulders whenever we pick her up. My daughter, however, chides me for this romantic notion, and reminds me of infant bonding.
I understand, of course, that it is nurturing and love that creates family. I think about my friend, Mary, whose Kentucky arms are eager to hold a granddaughter who will be born in China this fall to parents Mary will never meet.
Still – I continue to think that Annelise already knows she is my granddaughter. I can just picture my own grandmother coaching her in heaven, “Now remember who you are when you get down there, Annelise.” (And I suspect Mary’s grandmother said the same thing when she selected just the right child to place in Mary’s arms.)
“Remember who you are,” is a phrase I was raised on. It was never said in arrogance or pride. It did not imply superiority to others. Instead, it was an admonition not to betray one’s upbringing, not to thoughtlessly abandon a family’s values. This did not mean that offspring had to agree with every notion a parent or grandparent held — but it did caution one to proceed carefully. “We’ve given you the best we have to give,” it seemed to mean to me.
Sitting here on a crisp October afternoon rocking my newest grandchild, I almost think I can hear my grandmother speaking to me, too. It is I, she says, who needs to remember who I am as I commence my peripheral role in helping this child develop. It is I who must not forget the wisdom, the strength and the love passed hand over hand from one generation to the next.
So Annelise, welcome to our family. I’ll give you the best I have to give. I’ll give you what was given to me.
©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper
"Remember Who You Are" - excerpt from YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE