My granddaughter calls me Grandma Nanaw. It’s a name my children called my mother, and the moniker seems to have become a family tradition. It is hard to spell, though, and my newly-5-year-old granddaughter, Bree, found all those letters tedious. She was coloring a picture for me and wanted to put my name on it.
I suggested she use my first name.
“What is it?” she asked.
“No, it isn’t. It’s Grandma.”
I explained to her that I had a first name just like she did. And a middle name. And neither one was Grandma.
I could see the surprise in her eyes; or maybe she thought I was teasing. To her, I had always been Grandma Nanaw. To think I had an identity that was different from that must have seemed almost a magic trick.
“I was a little girl like you a long time ago, and I was Robin Joyce Garrison. Then I grew up and got married and my name turned into Robin Joyce Leach.”
“How did you turn into Grandma Nanaw?” she asked.
“Well. I was Robin Joyce Leach for a couple years, and then I had a baby. Her name was Andrea. Then…I became Mom.”
She smiled in the way children do when they know what comes next in a story.
“That’s who Mom was before she was Mom! She told me that!”
I nodded. “Yep. She was my daughter, and I was Mom to her.”
I was Mom, Momma, Mommy, Mother…even Ma. But I was not Robin to my daughter. And although others in my life still knew me by my given name, who I was forever changed through the eyes of my little girl.
“So you were a Mom until you got old and then you were Grandma Nanaw?”
Essentially correct, I thought.
“Well, kinda. Most Grandmas are old, I guess. But I didn’t get to be Grandma Nanaw until three special things happened.”
Bree’s fist still held the crayon she was waiting to print with. She leaned into the coloring page and toward my face, searching for clues to those special things.
“First, Andrea had to change. What do you think happened?” I asked.
She squinted her eyes and stared out the kitchen window. I could imagine her picturing a little girl she’d never known with her mother’s face.
“Andrea got big!”
I nodded and held up one finger. “She grew up into a woman.”
I lifted a second finger. “And she fell in love with your dad. And they…”
“I know! Got married!” She smiled…but then her smile faded.
“But who were YOU while they were doing that?” She stared at me, worriedly; as if I may have somehow become a different Mom to a different person then.
“I was still Mom to Andrea. Just a different kind of Mom. A friend/mom. You know she calls me Mom even now.”
“Yeah. That’s right.”
She wriggled on the seat and waited for my next question. The story wasn’t over. I wasn’t Grandma yet.
I wiggled my two fingers. “Now. One more thing happened and then…POOF! I turned into Grandma Nanaw.”
Bree’s smile told me she knew the one more thing.
“It was me! I was the special thing! I made you Grandma Nanaw!”
I pulled her to me and cuddled her into me the way only Grandmas can.
“Yes. You were born, and I turned into Grandma Nanaw.”
“Do you like that name better than Robin?” she whispered, hoping I was pleased with how her life had changed who I was.
“It’s my very favorite name in all the world.”
Bree scrambled back to her coloring page and touched the tip of her crayon to the top of the page.
“Then I’ll learn to spell Grandma Nanaw. Because that’s who you are!”
Yes. And I am eternally grateful.
Contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter!
Robin Garrison Leach PO BOX 5301 Quincy, IL. 62305.