You’ve now been in this world almost 48 hours. Forty-eight hours of photo flashes and prying, poking doctors and grinning, rhapsodic parents and rumbling traffic and leaking breasts and blaring sirens.
Kind of a wild, teeming mess, isn’t it? Welcome!
I’m your maternal grandmother, Ruth Burney Pennebaker. You can call me Coco, which sounds breezier and more sophisticated than Ruth. On the other hand, Coco doesn’t have her own book in the Old Testament.
I’ve seen you for months in hard-edged sonograms and felt you move in your mother’s stomach. Since your birth, I’ve seen a slew of photos of you, mostly crinkle-faced and sleeping, taken by your proud parents. I’ve even spoken to you and looked into your deep blue eyes on FaceTime. You stared back at me, but you’re not much of a conversationalist yet. (Not a bad thing. There are way too many talkers in this world.)
I’m writing you because that’s what I do – I’m a writer. But more than that, I’m writing because I’m 65 years old, with a vaguely spotty health history, and I’m the child of parents who didn’t age well and died demented.
I want you to know me. I don’t want you to remember me only as the drooling old gargoyle stuck in a corner of the room (as I may be one day). I want you to know me, however briefly, at my best. I want to try to tell you every important thing I’ve learned about being a woman and a would-be decent human being in this nutty, glorious, cruel world of ours. I want to leave something behind with you.
Because, you see, a part of me lives on with you. Just a part (I don’t want to be swinish. You have three other perfectly wonderful grandparents with admirable strands of DNA.)
But maybe in a gesture, a glance, a laugh, a turn of phrase, something of me will be recognizable in you. One of my better traits, hopefully, and not my lack of rhythm or tendency to sulk. I’m hoping for my legs and sense of humor.
We – your parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins – will scour your face and body and behavior to find traces of ourselves. But, looking at your sweet face and unblinking eyes, I try to remember you are already complete, possessing the beginnings of who you are going to be. We can love you, but we can’t own you, and we have to love you for who you are.
Damn! I’ve talked too much already. I have so much to say, but I’ll stop now.
I love you,