Sunday is National Grandparents Day and I had the perfect story for it that I wrote while in college...but I can’t find it. I thought I saved all my papers, but obviously not. In college, in order to practice writing, we had to do a lot of papers on the subjects of our choosing. My oldest granddaughter had just been born, so I did a story entitled, “Becoming a Grandparent: Seeing Life Through a Rearview Mirror,” and it was really good. But I can’t find it. Rats.
However, I did find another one, and seeing things through different eyes being a recurring theme, this one will do. The only difference is that it’s not about becoming a grandparent for the first time, but a few years later during the relationship part of our blooming partnership. Being a grandparent is like nothing else in the world. It’s a most indescribable relationship and I'm sure that there will be a few who shake their heads in agreement when they read these words. Here’s the story. I hope you like it.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where the Fernbank Science Center was dedicated in 1964; just in time for me to start grade school and begin a journey that, it turns out, would not end with high school graduation. I went there on a field trip with my first grade class and still have a vivid picture of the planetarium in my mind. I remember the snakes and things behind glass - the place seemed so big! But that perception changed on Wednesday November 19, 2008.
I decided to go to Fernbank for my college fieldtrip assignment. But the question loomed in my mind, “What will I get out of it this time that I didn’t when I was a kid?” So, I decided to take another kid with me – my three and a half year old granddaughter. This time I will see it through her eyes. Our “date” began when I arrived home from work.
When I arrived home from work, she was there waiting at the door for me, her jacket already on, a ten dollar bill in her hand. Off we went to fend off three o’clock traffic. The first time I visited there, I went on a bus. This time I had to drive to Decatur, by myself, in traffic, with a three year old in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” Every time she saw a building that didn’t look familiar to her, she asked, “Is that the museum?” Her dad had briefed her on the difference between a museum and the zoo; the animals are only alive in one of them.
Ponce De Leon. What a familiar name! I grew up in Atlanta and the name of that road automatically brought back memories. The memories really came alive when I passed under the “old” concrete bridge underpass. I made the first right, after that, a second right; and then we were there. I was as excited as she was.
We arrived around 20 minutes to four and it closed at five. I figured that a three year old’s attention span was about as hour long (so was my patience with a three year old in tow). The great thing about arriving in the afternoon was that all of the schools had already cleared out. Chloe and I were the only customers! The Science Center was smaller than I remembered, but it was huge to her.
We didn’t get to go to the Planetarium, but were able to walk around the museum area and look at the displays. The dinosaur head was humongous, and I was interested enough to hang around it for a few minutes, but she wasn’t. She wanted to see the alligator. It took three trips around the display floor before she could get up the nerve touch the alligator’s teeth. Once she had done that, her mission was complete and she was able to leave satisfied.
I had to get over the disappointment that the Center wasn’t as “large and in charge” as I had remembered. I was able to begin enjoying the experience through her eyes, because it was as big to her at that moment as it the first time I saw it. She “ooooh’ed and aaaah’ed” at each display. The reptiles in the glass were alive and she was able to see them move. Having the place to ourselves, she could ask as many loud questions as she wanted to. She asked questions that, as an adult, took me by surprise, my forgetting that I have seen these things before – remembering that she hasn’t. I realized that she was seeing this part of the world for the first time, and I have to confess, made me stop and “wonder” with her. It was a cool experience to look at the Bald Eagle and marvel to myself that I hadn’t realized that it was so big (finally, something was “big” to me).
Even though I was raised going to museums and zoos, I had not realized until I took a small person how different I could see from a dissimilar perspective. Chloe asked (when looking at life sized Cranes in their natural habitat), “Why are they standing in mud?” Honestly, I would never have noticed the mud! I would have looked to see where they are from, or maybe felt their feathers. But her question made me see a sunset behind the birds as they fed before they settled down for the night. And they didn’t live in a comfortable, warm home; they walked around in mud all day and that was “home” to them.
All in all, I had a very nice day out with my granddaughter, and was very grateful that I had the opportunity to get out of the house and spend the afternoon doing something that I might never had done had I not had an assignment from a college class. Normally, I lay down to take an afternoon nap, and Chloe waits for me to rest so that we can play. But we seldom get to play with the lack of restrictions that are attached to it, such as doing dishes and getting dinner on the table. So, on Wednesday November 19, 2008, we spent and hour and a half not worrying about time (or dishes). Our only worry was whether we had missed anything (which is why we made three trips around the display room)! My own personal worry was that she will grow up and lose the wide-eyed wonder that she experienced that day, growing into a cynical, jaded adult as many of us have unfortunately understood all too soon.
But until as that time comes, I intend to create many memories for this third generation as I possibly can, finding wisdom through remembering past experiences, and taking a second look at them through different eyes. I hope to impart to her, and those who come after her, the importance of keeping a childlike innocence as long as is possible. Now, if only I could somehow find satisfaction in the thrill of touching alligator’s teeth, I might just be on my way to something really big.