My grandmother was a very special lady.
She loved people and had an special place in her heart for children.
Every summer, each of her grandchildren was given the opportunity to spend two weeks with her in that warm and welcoming house on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn, New York.
When I was 4 years old, I pleaded to be allowed to go for my first sleepover. Even though my parents didn’t think I was old enough, they relented and so I helped my mother pack my little suitcase, dreaming of all the fun things I would do with my grandmother during those two weeks. Visits to the beach at Coney Island, hot dogs at Nathans, hours spent helping my grandmother bake and cook in her warm kitchen, planting seeds in her wildly beautiful and fragrant backyard garden.
Since all of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren visited her on Sundays, my family and I took the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I sat in my seat, my little suitcase at my feet, and could hardly wait for the train to arrive at her station.
After a fun-filled day of playing with my cousins, the house slowly emptied as my aunts and uncles and cousins left for their own homes and I bid farewell to my parents and older sister. I enjoyed the next few hours, helping my grandmother wash and dry the dishes. I played with her special box of costume jewelry that she kept just for little girls who love to wear sparkly things. I helped her prepare our dinner.
But, as evening approached, I began to feel very anxious and unhappy.
I wanted to go home to sleep in my own bed…in the room I shared with my sister.
Although my grandmother did try to encourage me to stay, she understood how I felt and did not try to pressure me or make light of my concerns. She called my parents and my father came to get me…no easy task since he had to take the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn and then do the trip in reverse to bring me home. He had already made the trip back and forth earlier in the day. And the next day was Monday and he would have to do it again to go to work.
But there were no recriminations or “I told you so” comments from either of my parents.
Do you have a child who suffers from separation anxiety? Early on, young children form a very strong bond with their parents. While we don’t want to ever break that bond, each child has their own unique ability to stretch it…some are able to do it sooner and some later.
How can you help your children get to the point where they can watch you walk away and keep a smile on their faces and in their hearts?
Here are a few good tips that might help:
1. Reassure your child you will always return.
2. Keep your attitude positive and matter-of-fact.
3. Treat your child’s concerns with respect.
4. Offer stories of your own childhood experiences and feelings.
If you check out some of my past posts that address this issue, you will find some of those book suggestions and other tips that may help.
You can also find more picture book recommendations, gentle parenting tips and fun-filled educational activities in my new parenting book
I hope you’ve all enjoyed The Grandma Chronicles. It was a wonderful experience for me, revisiting with my memories of a person who had a great impact on my early years…and in helping me to become the person I am today.
Tomorrow I will start a new series based on The Lessons of Nanny McFee. Have you seen the movie? I just did and I was struck by her five lessons…I think each one has a place in every parent’s rulebook.
Do you remember your first pet?
My memories of the velvet black cat that followed me home are bittersweet…tangled with my annual summer idyll at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn and the events that took place after I left.
Brooklyn, New York may not seem like a country retreat to you…but it was for a little girl from the heart of Manhattan. My grandmother’s house was on a tree-lined street…her backyard blooming with flowers and fruit trees was a paradise…a true Garden of Eden.
My grandmother had thirteen grandchildren…and as soon as each was old enough to sleep away from home, they were invited to spend two weeks during the summer with this very special lady.
The Summer of the Black Cat took place when I was about eight years old. It was the first morning of my two-week stay and my grandmother had sent me to the grocery store around the corner to pick up some milk and bread. I felt very proud and grown-up as I selected the items and paid for them. Leaving the store, I noticed a beautiful black cat sitting on the curb. Walking over to her, I patted her sleek fur and then turned and started back to my grandmother’s house. Crossing the street, I turned and noticed I had a little shadow following me…the black cat.
Perhaps she smelled the milk in the grocery bag or perhaps she was just lonely and had enjoyed the attention I had given her. But she followed me all the way back to my grandmother’s house! I went inside and gave my grandmother the milk and bread. “Grandma, grandma” I exclaimed. “A beautiful black cat followed me home…can I keep her?”
My grandmother was quite hesitant, but I should explain that she had many beautiful singing canaries. “Vivian” she said. “You know that birds and cats don’t belong in the same house.”
The tears that were starting to trickle down my cheeks must have touched her heart. “You can give her a bowl of milk, but under no circumstances can she come in the house.”
I was THRILLED! I quickly ran to the kitchen and poured some milk in a small bowl and hurried out to the cat. I set the bowl down next to her and sat there, watching Blackie (for so I had named her) lap it up. As soon as she finished she climbed up on my lap, curled herself around and settled herself contently. And I was content as well.
For the next two weeks, I had a constant companion on my walks around the neighborhood and while I sat reading in the backyard. I was always very careful to close the screen door carefully so that Blackie would not come into the house.
But all too soon the two weeks were over and it was time for me to return to my own home. I was sad to leave Blackie, but there was no way I could take her back to our apartment in the city.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. A few days after I had returned home, someone left the screen door open and Blackie got into the house. Before anyone realized it, she had jumped onto a table and reached one of the cages…and there was one less voice in the canary chorus at my grandmother’s house. When my grandmother discovered the dead bird, she was extremely upset and angry. Searching for the cat, she found it hiding under the sofa. She realized that just putting it out of the house was not enough because the cat would try to get in at the first opportunity and someone might forget to close the door again. So she put the cat in a shopping bag (this was many years ago before high tech pet carriers) and took a trolley to Coney Island and deposited the cat there…hopefully the next person who gave the cat a bowl of milk didn’t have any pet birds.
What would you have done in my grandmother’s situation?
Here are some options available if you find yourself with an unwanted pet:
- Contact a friend or relative who might want a pet.
- Call your local ASPCA or other animal rescue shelter.
If any of you have other suggestions, please leave a comment and share them!
My grandmother reacted in the heat of the moment, as many of us do sometimes. But her main concerns were always for people and I have to be grateful for her willingness to allow a little girl to have her first pet.
I keep thinking that each Grandma Chronicle is going to be the last one…and I really thought this one would be. However, there is one more story that I think relates to many young children who have separation anxiety, as I did. Stop by tomorrow for The Grandma Chronicles: The Aborted Sleepover.