I grew up a military brat, and as such, we moved a lot. I mean whole lot. It was heartwrenching leaving friends behind and starting over again and again as a kid, but the adult in me now recognizes the benefits I got from it, too. I saw places all over the globe, I met people from other cultures, I learned to find the commonalities with a whole new group of kids and that's a skill I've carried into adulthood.
One of the downsides of that, though, is that I never grew up around a big and loving family. My parents both benefitted from that - they were one of six siblings each, and their families all live geographically close to each other. Visiting the Colorado or California relatives was always a little dizzying - tons of cousins who'd grown up around each other, getting passed around the aunts and uncles, marveling at the play of DNA across our faces and bodies and hair colors. And of course, there were the grandmas (my grandfathers passed away when I was very young). Each was different from the other, but still just as vocal in their exclamations of my size, my beauty, my resemblance to this one or that one.
I didn't know them much beyond that.
It wasn't because they were standoffish or cold - there just simply wasn't time. We got a week together every few years, and that was also filled with catching up with my parents, family barbeques and get-togethers, food and laughter and old friends dropping in to see us all. I was too busy chasing my cousins around. I got a hug here and there, maybe a dollar pressed into my hand if we were going out to the movies, and not much else. I lost one grandma in high school, and the other in college. I was sad, of course, but life went on, and rather quickly. I think of them with fondness, but not a lot of rooted memory.
The fact is, I know my grandparents mostly from my parent's stories of them, and there's something sad about that. I got to thinking about all this when a Facebook friend posted this article about having a grandmother you're close to.
The writer in me wishes I'd talked to them more when I had them. Asked them more. My paternal grandmother was Choctaw. How cool is that? My paternal grandfather worked on the railroad. My mother's family were Irish immigrants and for a while my grandfather drove a cab - how many stories could they have shared? But I never did ask. Never thought to ask. Now I'm the poorer for it.
The used-to-be-little-girl in me wishes she remembered storytime on Grandma's lap, or hearing Grandma embarrass my mother with a story, or learning one of Grandma's recipes at her elbow, or listening to Grandma lecture me about boys.
Instead, I have memories of my parent's memories. It's not much, and I wish - oh, how I wish - it were more.