It’s spring break. I’d wanted to spend the week taking Maggie to the various places we have memberships: the zoo, the science center, and the rock hall. She had other ideas. She wanted to spend the vacation with her grandparents.
I used to teach college mathematics and stopped when it was clear that the only way to keep working was to move far away from our kids’ four grandparents. Neither Oberlin nor John Carroll thought enough of my talents to keep me. I loved my time at both places and will some day return to teaching. But it was easier to change what I do than to take Kim and the girls away from our families.
That’s why it makes me so happy that the girls loved to be with their grandparents and that their grandparents loved to have them over. Kim grew up having Sunday dinner with her grandparents. I never really knew mine very well. On my mother’s side, my grandmother died when I was two and my grandfather died when I was six. On my father’s side, they lived pretty far away. First in Boston and then in Florida. We would see them at Thanksgiving or maybe Passover and we would travel to see them during a long vacation.
I have many great memories of spending time with my grandparents, I just don’t remember spending time with them that wasn’t special. You know, spending so much time with them that we could be comfortable in the same room not paying much attention to each other. That’s special. That’s the comfort that comes with having a lot of time together.
That’s the comfort Maggie and Elena had at their grandparents houses. That’s the comfort that Maggie still has.
The girls used to spend three days a week at Kim’s parents house while Kim was at work. One day when Maggie was barely walking, I dropped her off. She gave me a hug. Waved goodbye and while I was standing there talking to Kim’s mom, Maggie headed into the kitchen. The next thing I knew, Maggie had the television clicker in her hand and was turning on “Blue’s Clues”. She opened the can of pop and the bag of chips she had picked up in the kitchen and sat in her Pooh chair.
Kim’s mom looked me dead in the eye and said, “she’s never done that before.”
Now Maggie is nine and a half. She slept over Sunday and Monday night at Kim’s mom’s house. She helped around the house when her cousin was over. She drew pictures, played outside, read, helped clean, and just enjoyed being with one set of grandparents. Now she’s spending three days and two nights with my parents. She’ll feed the cats, go out to visit the fish in the pond, play outside, use the computer, and enjoy being with another set of grandparents.
My sister comes to town tomorrow night so we’re delaying the Passover seder til Monday night. All four grandparents will get together for Easter on Sunday and for Passover on Monday.
Last night I saw Nikki Giovanni read a poem on “Def Poetry”. She told of her childhood and hoped that no white person would write her biography. She didn’t want a story of her life that talked about how poor she was growing up. Her poem was full of the happiness and the richness of her early life. The lack of money was, for her, not the same as being poor.
In the same way, people who don’t know talk about how hard it must have been for me to have given up my career to stay here. I loved teaching. I love teaching. I will teach again. But there was no real choice to be made and no difficulty in deciding.
Last week I ran into Clayton at a coffee house. He was the Dean at Oberlin when I left. When I left we had just interviewed a guy for a visiting position. We thought he was o.k. and would do fine in a visiting position. The administration offered him a tenure track position instead. Two of us in visiting positions said to the dean that if we’d known that the job was a tenure track position we would have applied. I said that if this position could be converted I wanted my position converted too. Ahh, to be young and confident.
The answer was no and so I left at the end of the year. No point in staying in a relationship that isn’t going anywhere when the other person refuses to commit. We received nice notes and flowers from friends in the math and computer science departments but that no was the last thing I ever heard from Clayton. I’ve seen him now and again in airports or in coffee shops. I always say hello. He often doesn’t seem to hear me. When he does – when he looks back my way he looks right through me. It could be he doesn’t recognize me. It could be that I’m not there.
No real choice to be made. I left that world for a world in which four grandparents could gather two days in a row and celebrate their different traditions together.