"You're never too old to have a happy childhood.''
As soon as I read that motto, I decided it applied to my life. I am enjoying my adult childhood more than my original childhood. I have always felt that I had a dreadful first 18 years. My family had one major life-altering issue after another. My teenage years were spent in a town and a school I detested.
It must be the season. Children are supposed to be happy and looking forward to toys and visits to Santa. Some of my Christmas memories are not joyful. I had loving parents and they did the very best they could under challenging circumstances. We spent one Christmas in a dismal hotel near the hospital where my father was confined.
When our children were at home, Christmas was a special time. I miss the feeling of anticipation of the joy on our children's faces when they saw the tree and what Santa had brought. It was major "rip and tear" as they found the exact present for which they had been yearning. Now that I am a grandparent I watch the same scene, only this time my part is just a supporting one.
I have tried to be the stereotypical grandmother. I am a spoiler, a hugger and a bragger. There are no grandchildren smarter, prettier or as well-behaved as mine. They are 10 of the most wonderful creatures on this Earth and I will spar with anyone who disagrees.
It is my past that has caused me want to create great Christmas memories for my children and to be the grandmother I think I am. I often wonder about people who continue family patterns of misery through the generations. I cannot fathom why anyone would thrust the misery they suffered on the ones they supposedly love. Is it to get even or do they feel they must pass on the lesson that life is harsh?
I only had one grandparent and everyone called her "Ma," even us. I learned very early that I was not a favorite of Ma. She made it very clear that I was a whiner and that I was spoiled. She stayed with us for months during one family emergency and I have not one memory of her. As a teenager, I refused to attend her funeral. She never gave me any comfort and I felt justified in not going.
Ma was a sturdy matriarch and her family listened to what she said. Her life had not been an easy one, but she made the best of it. Her faith was her life raft and everyone she loved was in her boat.
Through the years, I have carried the burden of her disapproval. I have been very determined to not be her kind of grandmother. In my mind, grandmothers should be silent observers, leaving child-rearing to the parents. It is our duty to love the child, warts and all.
It must have been a Christmas song that caused my mind to wander back through the years. I have made a major discovery about Ma. By her actions I was determined to be the grandmother I never had. This determination has given me great joy and loving hugs and kisses. I have a box full of handmade cards and pictures made by little hands. My memories of joy far surpass the few sad ones.
I have accepted Ma and I have forgiven her because I worked so hard not to be her. I have a new motto to add to the first:
It is never too late to give acceptance and forgiveness.
Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.