By Alexandra Gamez
Easter Sundays are a big deal for many Catholics. I can remember my mother fixing my younger sister and I up in matching red corduroy dresses. We were two and four and dressed alike for most of our toddlerhood. Many asked if we were twins. We gathered for an Easter egg hunt at my grandparents’ house after church.
“No peaking,” my grandmother told my sister and I, smiling and holding her index finger out to warn us as she left to hide the eggs with my grandpa. I giggled and shucked my hand out as if to say I wouldn’t dare.
Outside, a plethora of pastel colored eggs were scattered on the lawn toward the front of the house. We found eggs everywhere, but really, we only cared about the ones with candy inside of them. We found out that the silver coins did not have chocolate flavoring (the gold ones did) and we would have to settle for our milk chocolate bunnies and our marshmallow Peeps.
“Now look at the camera, honey,” my grandpa told me. By four, the idea of self-consciousness had not yet changed my diva ways. “What did you get?” he prompted me.
“A bwa-nee” I responded, holding up my Peter Rabbit look-a-like.
“All-be darn,” he said, zeroing in on me with his Kodak.
He watched as I toted Peter Rabbit on my hip and settled myself in my new red toy wagon, candy enclosed in my small fists.
These were some of the best moments of my childhood. In truth, my grandparents played a big part in raising me: instilling me with words to live by like “If you respect yourself, there will be no reason why others don’t.” They weren’t our extended family, they were our nuclear one. It was just my mom with her two little girls, but my grandparents always had a hand in raising us.
One day after preschool we went to my grandparents’ house for dinner. I complained about a certain boy found enjoyment in sticking Play-Doh in my wavy chocolate locks. His name was Jeffrey. “He’s mean to me,” I said, looking up at my grandfather.
“He’s mean to you?” he asked me, looking me straight on. I nodded, playing with the bread on my plate.
“Tell him I’m going to kick his monkey butt.”
“Dad!” my mother said, subduing a laugh. “My gosh.”
I scanned his face and gave out a little chuckle, the apples on my cheeks stood out as I blushed.
“Listen, honey,” he said, leaning in toward the table and focusing his gaze on me, “You tell anyone who messes with you that your grandpa is going to come over there and give them the old runaround.”
“Wun-around?” I said aloud, pondering and blinking my eyes in dense confusion. I continued to play with my bread, my cheeks bulging upwards into a smile.
Fast-forward to my sophomore year in high school. I had just lost my best friend of six years and I found myself holding back tears as I talked to my grandmother about the situation.
“She moved to Texas. She left me,” I told her, disillusioned. “I’m alone now.”
My grandmother took a deep breath and said, “Listen, honey: you need to know something. People are going to come and go in your life. It’s just the nature of it. But I’ll tell you one thing: the most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself.”
“Okay,” I agreed, nodding and stifling back a ragged breath.
Now in college, there are days when I can’t quite pick up the phone to call my grandparents. The phone is too far away- it’s on the opposite side of the room. I have a study guide that I predict will take me eleven hours to complete (literally, eleven hours). I have articles to write and not enough time to edit them. My girlfriends are calling me from down the hall to join their late-night movie party and I don’t know where in the heck my car keys are to pick up a gallon of skim milk.
However, when I do make that phone call— whether it has been two weeks or three— I am right where I left off. I talk to my grandpa about politics. We bond as we talk about Libyan affairs or Obama’s healthy stance against deregulation. I tell my grandmother that I hope I was right in the way I handled a former friendship that just ended. I ask for her insight and take it to heart, never dismissing her age as an indicator of her reservoir of wisdom.
Regardless of my busy college schedule, I make the call to my grandparents. I have seen their part in our lives: from birth on camera to fixing my sister and I up in onesies to bi-yearly visits during Christmas and the summertime. I know that what they have invested in me is not just blood; it’s their hearts, truly. They protect me because they know how. They love because they’ve loved each other since they were sixteen. They’re here because they want to be. I am their investment and all I want is to return the grand gesture.
It seems to me that many people take their grandparents as just another family member. To me, they’re like my second and third parent. They counsel me when I need it, regardless if I want it. They talk to me about the seriousness of life without doubting that I can manage the conversation’s tone. And finally, they take pride in me because I am a part of them. To respect what they have done for me would not be enough, so I seek their presence in my life forever. Alas, I know it will only be a fraction of forever. But I love them like there’s no tomorrow.