My two granddaughters have very different personalities. While Poppy, who is eight, is passionate and affectionate, Amelie, the ten-year-old, tries to keep an even keel and prefers expressions of irony to emotion. I, of course, appreciate Amelie’s humor, but have found myself lately longing for a bit more emotional expressiveness on her part. For her tenth birthday, Stephen and I took her shopping in France via FaceTime. After about ten minutes of her responding to each item we showed her, “That’s O.K.,” Stephen suggested she begin using a five-point scale to communicate. Not one item received a five! And each time I spoke to the girls, Poppy said she missed me, while Amelie kept any missing to herself.
I’ve been very tempted to talk with Amelie about her “coolness,” which actually, I confess, hurts my feelings at times, but after much reflection, I realize that would not be a good idea. I don’t want to make her feel guilty or extract from her what she would rather keep up close and personal. I know deep down that I need to give her space, while I remain the loving gram I have always been.
Last week, I took the girls to their last trapeze class, in far western Oakland, in a former warehouse. Just entering the structure felt daunting, with its gaping open space and 30-foot ceiling. The girls immediately kicked their shoes off and scurried to the far end, where their instructors greeted them. As class began, I slowly made my way down to their end, where an instructor met me with a seat.
Poppy was the first to begin climbing a ladder to the platform high above. The minute she took her first step, my stomach lurched. I craned my head in order to allow my eyes to travel from the lofty platform to the trapeze hanging quite a few feet away. My stomach lurched again. At that moment, I began to wonder if I would be able to watch.
Just then, I felt a warm embrace and two hands gently rest on each side of my face. “I know you’re going to try not to watch,” Amelie’s voice wafted into my ear. “So I’m here to be sure you do.”
To say I was thrilled, would be an understatement. It was the first time in years that my oldest granddaughter had initiated an embrace. And just when I was beginning to yearn for that connection.
So with Amelie’s warm hands cradling my face, I watched as Poppy stood at the very edge of the platform, reached for the trapeze the instructor swung toward her, sailed into the air, lifting and splitting her legs, swinging her body over the bar, then letting go and falling down, down, down into the net!
And all the while Poppy was flying, I watched, relaxed in the warm embrace of Amelie. Since then, I have returned to this experience again and again, each time recapturing the thrill and joy of that moment a week ago: watching Poppy fly through the air far above me, with Amelie leaning into me, her hands resting on my cheeks.