Dear Ellie

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,

Coco xo


  1. Stephanie · August 10, 2015

    Really lovely.

  2. Cheryl · August 10, 2015

    This is awesome, Ruth! Love it!

  3. Paula · August 10, 2015

    Beautiful first post, Ruth. So excited for this next chapter of your blogging. And I hope one day to meet the beautiful Ellie.

  4. Brette · August 10, 2015

    I feel a little rude, sticking my nose into this lovely personal moment, but just wanted to say I love this and I’m sure Ellie will too. What a wonderful thing to create for her.

  5. Sheryl · August 10, 2015

    Beautiful, as only you can express your unique and loving feelings through your words, Ruth. Lucky Ellie! Congratulations on your newest blog.

  6. Jane Boursaw · August 10, 2015

    Love your new site, Ruth/Coco! And how lucky little Ellie is to have access to your wit and wisdom. I’ll be following along.

  7. Jeanrather · August 10, 2015

    Ruth–this makes my own heart crinkle as I read your thoughts put into the words I would have spoken to my own two grandbabies! Only now they’re 14 and 18 and so much more than I could have even have prayed for then. I hope Ellie inherits your incredible, indomitable talents.

  8. Laura · August 10, 2015

    So Lovely…I wish I had known my grandmother. Ellie is a lucky granddaughter.

  9. Laura Leseberg · August 10, 2015

    Welcome to the best part of life! Three (four in December) live within minutes. It is such a treasure to be part of their lives. Everyone tells you how wonderful it will be, but until you actually experience it, you can’t begin to comprehend. Unfortunately, time with grandkids goes at warp speed.
    Our first determined my name: Guh or Guggie, and I love it. Being a grandmother is the best thing I’ve ever done.

  10. merr · August 10, 2015

    Lovely. No other way to describe this.

  11. HeatherL · August 10, 2015

    What a great legacy to leave Ellie. You’ve introduced yourself elegantly.

  12. betsy blair · August 10, 2015

    This is gonna be so good! Looking forward to following you on this journey….

  13. Kerri · August 10, 2015

    This is such a wonderful thing for Ellie.

  14. Vera Marie Badertscher · August 10, 2015

    This is a glorious idea, beautifully realized. I want to subscribe and share and whatever else I can do to spread the word. Congratulations on the grand daughter and on the wonderful messages you’re sending her.

  15. Alexandra · August 10, 2015

    I admit, I thought of doing the same thing when my first granddaughter was born. Ellie will treasure the words you write here. This is a terrific idea but a tough job you have set for yourself. You get at why in this one sentence: “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 look forward to reading.