Perhaps you have seen this neologism from my friend Kerry Byrne:
If you have grandchildren, and were lucky enough to have them all together, or even in stages, over the holidays, you know how grandslump feels.
After the children and grandchildren gather up their luggage and head for the car, and we have stood there blowing kisses on the porch, I come back into the house and start vacuuming. It’s a habit I started twelve years ago when we had our first Christmas in Virginia with baby Owen, his parents, and his Aunt and Uncle. I may have have wanted the vacuum noise for droning company, in case I started crying, after they had all returned to their homes.
This year, as I visit each room with my Dyson wand in hand, I pick up the little reminders of the visit the children have left behind. My favorite ones are their drawings and paintings.
If you have read The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children’s Children, you know that I love children’s art and the confidence children display in their ability to draw when they are young (“Every Child Is an Artist,” Chapter 17).
These portraits tell the story of our family at Christmas 2022. They will be preserved in the three binders I am creating, one for each child. I got the idea to use binders (three at my house and one for each grandchild in their bedrooms) from the binders my mother and I used to preserve our letters when I went off to college. We used the same lined notebook paper for our stationery. When I got a letter from home, I put it in my binder. When I sent a letter home, Mother put it in her binder. After four years, we had four binders each filled to the brim. Those letters are now in the archives of the Mennonite Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University.
I have no historical aspirations for these binders, but if the children enjoy seeing them fill up with letters from grandparents on their end, and then check out what I have collected on my end when they visit, they might begin to develop a taste for documentation and the making of artifacts that preserve our relationship, even after we are no longer here and even after they leave childhood behind.
We had a photo shoot during our precious three days together. My niece Joyous Snyder lined us up in front of the fireplace and said “Do whatever you feel like.” That made us laugh.
The vacuuming is over now. The decorations are gone. Some chocolates remain. We will try to share them and savor no more than one or two a day. They remind me of this quote from the author of Anne of Green Gables:
“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
What is the antidote to GrandSlump?
- Activity like cleaning that can allow contemplation and reflection and prayer.
- Memories of simple pleasures: the frozen banana/oreo pie, the night we saw White Christmas in the Fulton Opera House, the church service Christmas morning, the Radio Flyer Red Wagon “sleigh” pulled by Rudolf, Dasher, and Dancer; the delight in playing with Legos, face paint, Play-Doh kitchen sets, and reading new books, and the long walk through Lititz with just Owen and Julia on their last morning, ending at Dosie Dough downtown for hot chocolate and bagels.
- Artifacts, especially art work and photos, that can be preserved. If we are lucky, some day when they are ready for college, we can sit down and look at our memories collected over the years and count our blessings — again.
What are your blessings? How do you count them? Do you have your own methods of preservation? Love to hear your stories from the holidays.