Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: the perils of the grandmother...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

the perils of the grandmother...

Before she starts, Granny wishes to draw the attention of all to this in today's Guardian - Women writers unite! (She apologises for continuing to fail to connect you simply via the word this without the gobbledy-gook, despite much good advice from her internet friends.... she will keep working on it. Has worked! Look! Sometime she'll get rid of the underline too..)

Now on with her dull domestic altogether womanly story... not even any romps or buttocks..Sorry about that. (On second thoughts, Granny('s) buttocks are hardly erotic objects these days. So maybe, reader, you should be grateful, after all.)

This picture was taken of her dad about a year before he died, with Granny's two youngest granddaughters. He looks almost happy. The only times he did look happy in the last three years of his life, after he'd had to move into a home, was when he was around with or talking about his various great-grandchildren. What he said was always the same. 'I must say, I'm lucky, I've got a bunch of the prettiest little girls you'd want to see.' Which was nice, but boring. eventually. Especially when it did not stop him also saying, after the birth of his first great-grandson, 'It's the happiest day of my life since T (his son, Granny's brother) was born...thereby enraging the grandmothers and the less laid back mothers of the eight great-granddaughters so slighted. Oh yes, Our Father definitely came from another country. And it wasn't heaven.

About the only other thing that moved him was sport. In the two weeks before he died, it was hard to know which pleased him more; the visit of his second great-grandson, aged 6 weeks, or a spectacular, knife-edged Test Match win by the English team. Granny is glad he got both, in the middle of what was otherwise misery. (As she has said before, she hopes he might be watching this year's Test series from up there somewhere. But doesn't dare believe it, alas. No afterlife for her. Or him who did believe it. Which is sadder.)

It also leaves her wondering about grandchildren as a substitute for life. Especially in view of a piece by Petite Anglaise yesterday, about the guilt engendered in the children by the need to visit one set of grandparents or other.

Granny herself woke up sad this morning. First after dreaming of her dad, and second because it's almost Easter and this is the first time in 2 years she hasn't spent it here, on her island with all 3 of the little girls, and a lot of eggs. The eldest will be here in just over a week's time. But the other two aren't coming at all. There won't be any eggs either; other than the ones laid by hens.

Now let her state at once, before she fills her children with guilt when/if they read this, that she accepts it all as part of the unspoken grandparents' contract. Of the unspoken parents' contract come to that: motherhood is a difficult joy, for sure. Granny is not just talking about the broken nights it starts with, and the teenage horror that follows not so very long after. She is talking about the way, along with sprogs always, your own and their sprogs' sprogs, your grandchildren, the paradoxes do and must arrive. You lose and gain yourself simultaneously. You continue to lose and gain yourself as they grow up. The sprogs' presence all the time is painful and joyful. Their absence when they leave is equally painful and joyful. (Oh God, what am I now? How I miss them. Oh God what bliss to be free to lead my own life...) At the very moment you gain children, it's certain that in the end you will lose them. Off they go - off they must go - to lead their own lives free of you and quite right too.

And then the grandmotherhood. The fact is that without you, the grandchildren wouldn't exist. But it doesn't mean to say you are central; far from it; you are peripheral in actual if not genetic terms. It is probably right that while you are saying goodbye to life, the ongoing life of the family - your children/grandchildren, your siblings' children/ grandchildren (not to mention all the great-grandchildren if you live that long) become the chief meaning of existance - more than work even, if it's the kind of which the effects or otherwise might last (Though you shouldn't count on it. Look on my works ye mighty and despair' says it all. And come to think of it grandchildren aren't always the best kind of future either. Think of Nero's grandmother. Or Queen Victoria for that matter, whose darling little Willy grew up to be the Kaiser and generate the First World War.) But not before. Never before. Until the end of your life living through your children and grandchildren IS NOT ON.

Mourn you may. That's life, see above. Meanwhile you get on with/ do your own things, joyfully what's more. You rejoice when the young come to visit you (and sometimes when they go away). You expect and want NOTHING - in particular not their guilt, especially not their guilt. Love - mother love in particular, oh God, is like that. With which sententious statement Granny will close and eat chocolate to comfort herself. NOT CHOCOLATE AS EGGS, though: Good Friday, the penitential bit, comes first.

7 Old comments:

Blogger Deirdre said...

I hope that's not a "disappointingly domestic" photo? But no, those people all look so happy, so it can't be...

:) Great article.

11:43 am  
Blogger granny p said...

oops, D. You were lucky enough to see this in the window in which these bits got posted before I wrote the post itself! It is a great article isn't it.

12:49 pm  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

It is indeed a great article. I was particularly pleased to see Doris Lessing featured, as I think she's a tremendous and ridiculously under-rated writer.

I came over to say thank you for your very helpful comment on Real E Fun. And I should probably confess at this point that I lurk around here from time to time!

4:05 pm  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Sorry, Granny. That was the only time in my life I've done something too quickly.

What a post. Again. What's going on? Something in the air over there that's making you deep and meaningful? (pondering) Ah-hah! But obviously: at the heart of every great work of art or thought, dig around long enough and you'll find the influence of chocolate.

Your post just shows that the domestic sphere is where we humans live. It has all the drama and conflict of so-called wider spheres, plus guts and heart. It's something that we all can identify with because family relations - in all their various combinations - are universal. I suspect the critics of "womens' writing" might actually be talking about setting or context or something apart from content? Who knows or cares: they're idiots.

And your Blogger link thing: I've just remembered a problem I had at first. When you highlight the word or phrase then hit the Link button, the pop-up window shows an "http://" already in the window. If you then click to the side of this and paste in your URL, there will be two "http://"s (something you won't notice, because they're out of sight to the left of the window) and the link will by stopped at a Blogger window instead of going to the expected URL. Just get rid of that first "http://" before pasting in the link, and then it works.

5:17 am  
Blogger granny p said...

Welcome Zinnia - it must be obvious that I lurk around you too - a lot! I'm glad there's at least a little mutual recognition. And how I agree about Doris Lessing. The Golden Notebook in particular was/is one of my foundation books (and it stood up post 60's and early women's stuff too, when I read it again years later.)

Deirdre; yes. You put it so well - I read what you said to Beloved who also agreed it was well said. But added; 'That's the whole problem. It (the domestic stuff) is all so commonplace; just the same as all the others. Boring.' You see what we're up against! I think he's quite extreme actually and curiously invigorating for me to be around mentally just the same. (Perhaps I should try him on Anna Karenina... but no, it wouldn't work!) But at some level or other it is a view many men in particular take. They just can't see the subtleties, the differences, the way one set of circumstances far from being identical illuminates so many others..

8:19 am  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Oh, men... (laughing) Yes, our domestic lives are commonplace because we're all identical. Especially men. Obviously. (laughing again)

Then again, fair enough if he thinks domestic matters are boring. I suppose it depends on what you find interesting, doesn't it? There's a big difference between action-driven stories and character-driven ones. Maybe domestic and family matters tend to draw on inner realms, rather than external ones? Or maybe I'm just talking stereotypes now... And here's a confession: I've never read Anna Karenina. Uh-oh.

6:40 am  
Blogger granny p said...

You can have character driven stories outside the domestic sphere - and vice versa I guess. (The best stories - Shakespeare! - are certainly character driven - Macbeth is full of action! - but..) And the domestic doesn't have to be quiet stuff either. Anna Karenina a good example. Try it!...if you're feeling strong. Or Madame Bovary (much shorter. Also about female feelings. And also written by a man!)

4:20 pm  

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