As anyone who’s read my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, will know, Woody and I postponed our application process for sixteen months while we awaited the births of my two sons’ first babies. (Amazon link is here)
As I say in the book, my sons were always competitive, but this was ridiculous. The wives’ due dates were just two days apart — September 25 and 27.
The babies arrived
only ten days late, but still two days apart. Elijah Walker was born October 5, 2003 as I was driving to Ohio. We estimate he entered the world as I was crossing the Bay Bridge near Annapolis, MD from our then-home on Chincoteague Island.
When Isabella Louise came two days later, I was the one to tell her brother, Mikah, the news when we woke up to an empty house.
My sons lived in Cincinnati in those days and they used the same hospital for the deliveries. So, the day Bella was born was the day Elijah went home. As a result, Gramma Janet got to hold both of them together for a few minutes. I’ll be forever grateful to Elijah’s dad, David, that we have this picture. Bella, on the left in the photo, was only a few hours old here. My, times have changed since my kids were born and everyone was masked and gowned and sterilized!
Exciting times. This week, they are turning 11.
Here’s a photo of them with those hats I wrote about in the memoir. Remember? I mailed them from the post office and sent them off assuming they’d never arrive.
Here’s another, aged about three, shortly after I returned from Peace Corps.
The following few paragraphs (broken into even more paragraphs for this post) seem apropos. Some were taken originally from my journal or from various emails home.
I miss my grandchildren very much. I miss hearing the phone ring and picking it up to find my son David has just called to chat. I miss my old way of life and don’t feel I have a new one yet.
How long does it take to feel settled when so much is so new? I guess I’ll find out eventually.
I can say “enough” at any time, quit, and go home. They told us during training we could be home in three days.
What keeps me here? I focus on what Mikah, Bella, and Elijah can get from my time here: stories of the immenseness of our world, that it’s more than just the familiar.
I came for Woody in the beginning. This was his idea, despite what we say about Lillian Carter; but that’s in the past. I’m here for me, now. I’m learning each day to be more comfortable in the unknown and I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities to practice.
I’ve taken a risk; that’s the important part. I’ve jumped off the high dive for Woody, for my grandchildren, and now for me. I just hope I hit the water soon.
Mikah was five when we left and was a very important part of my life at this time. Here’s the first mention of him in my book.
With Jon’s marriage, I’d inherit my first grandchild, two-year-old Mikah whom I already adored. Surely, we couldn’t leave before the wedding.
Here’s Mikah three years later, during our 2005 vacation in Copenhagen that is in the book. He and his dad (my son Jon) are dueling with swords, the kind that grow in nearby shallow streams.
And one of the first things I attended as Grandma when I returned was Mikah’s Grandparents Day in Ohio. Here we are in 2007.
Mikah and Bella and Elijah, each have a younger sibling now. I can’t leave out Raleigh (Elijah’s brother, born in 2005) or Kendall (Mikah and Bella’s sister, born in 2006). Here they are.
Here are a few scenes of them in various poses. Can you match the pictures with the captions?
A. Jenna was offered the honor of introducing President Obama on his swing through Akron during the 2012 campaign. So, of course the family got a chance to meet him.
B. Raleigh and Elijah
C. Raleigh and Elijah
D. Bella and Kendall
E. Family photo of Dave, Tara, Elijah, and Raleigh
And finally, those “first day of school” photos that are a family tradition.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short glimpse into my life as Grandma Janet. I know I’ve enjoyed putting it together. How about you? I’d love to hear your tales of Grandmahood.