Grandchildren: Gone But Not Forgotten
BY DEBORAH LEVIN
The acorns lay scattered on my deck, looking lost and lonely. Every time I step outside I have to resist the temptation to bend over and inspect a few. I search for the perfect specimens with smooth, firm, honey-colored shells and intact little hats perched on top. I spot one, then hesitate and stop in my tracks. No, this is not my job, I tell myself. And I don’t know where I’d put them anyway. The grandchildren are gone and I’ve packed away their pails and shovels. The bold primary colors of plastic gardening tools no longer brighten my lawn; their bikes don’t block the driveway; their books don’t clutter the floor. The dollhouse was disassembled and shipped back to CA, the Lego creations placed carefully on shelves and countless drawings left to decorate my refrigerator door.
No patter of little bare feet on the stairs or squawks of protest at bedtime.
After a wonderful summer in which the silver lining of Covid-19 sparkled over my house for two long months while my daughter and son-in-law, their 4-year-old twins, and two dogs transformed our home into a summer camp, my grandchildren aren’t here to fill any buckets with samples of the wonders of nature that abound in my yard. The pine cones, pebbles, and piles of dirt they watered to make mud pies have been returned to their rightful places, and peace and quiet have been restored under our roof. There’s no more splashing in the pool and fits of giggles as our lovable labradoodle leaped in after them. No patter of little bare feet on the stairs or squawks of protest at bedtime. No yelling, no laughing, no crying.
The Silence is Deafening.
The pop of an acorn landing at my feet pulls me out of my reverie. Once again I imagine collecting a boxful and putting them in the mail, envisioning the glee with which my grandchildren would open a package addressed directly to them, eager little fingers tearing at the cardboard. I even allow myself to imagine the fun of the twins’ bringing that box to their preschool for show and tell (“look how exciting…these acorns are from NY!”) but then I remember that the school is enforcing strict guidelines as to what can and cannot enter their safe, sanitized spaces these days. I’m vaguely aware, too, that there are certain prohibitions about sending organic material through the U.S. mail.
As a conscientious citizen, I felt the need to prove due diligence and went to their website, where I found Publication 52 (who knew?) and scanned the fine print until something about plant products…hazardous…restricted…perishable… caught my eye. I’m not sure if acorns would fall into any of those categories but I’m unwilling to swear to the Postmaster General that the contents of my package are free from potential harm. So when I continue the scenario in my mind about a surprise mail delivery, I can almost hear my daughter groaning quietly in the corner, worrying that her mother may have unknowingly introduced some terrible toxin into the ecosystem of her much-loved adopted state.
But I do hold out hope to be with them to celebrate their 5th birthdays in February.
Which of course brings me right back to where I started. Toxins, toxins everywhere. Or so it seems. I feel as if the Coronavirus is lurking behind every mask, landing on every surface, blowing in the wind, hiding under the acorns I can’t gather and send. That may or may not be the case, but it’s enough to keep me away from the airport and off a plane for the time being.
At this point, I don’t dare plan on seeing my grandchildren give thanks together in November or light Chanukah candles in December. But I do hold out hope to be with them to celebrate their 5th birthdays in February. I’ve already started thinking about gifts and am keeping my fingers crossed that somehow, somewhere, I can actually- not virtually- watch them rip off the wrapping paper and blow out the candles. After months of separation, the icing on those cakes is bound to be the sweetest ever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Deborah Levin
Deborah Levin lives in Westchester County, NY with her husband and lovable Labradoodle. Her work has been published in the New York Times and Clinical Social Work journals, Grown and Flown. Pulse and GRAND Magazine.