He looked down on me, patted my head like he would the dog, and smiled. “How could you forget that Fionn mac Cumhaill had a dog named Bran?”
This, from the sixth grader.
When did the boy become smarter than I am?
It must have happened overnight. That’s it.
One evening, I tucked him in, kissed him goodnight and made sure his baby tooth was safely under the pillow so the blasted tooth fairy could find it in the frantic moments before breakfast.
The next thing I knew, he had all his adult teeth, a slightly shady top lip, and was spouting off Gaelic history, chuckling at my forgetfulness.
“I thought you said you went to college, Mom. What happened?”
What happened, indeed.
I am getting old-ish.
I don’t remember the quadratic equation, nor why it is important.
I can no longer recite the Gettysburg Address.
I don’t “get” any references to pop culture, unless my kids explain them.
My hair is greying, my hips are widening, and my eyes require cheap plastic magnifiers to read.
Is it true that nostrils really keep growing?
Because I remember being a child, and looking up into my grandmother’s loving face. Her hair was grey and wiry, her girth enabled her to handle two kids on her lap at once for admiring agates and other treasures. Her face was brown with creases and wrinkles and little spots on it and we loved her dearly. I admired every bit of her as she taught me to make her homemade cinnamon rolls (“Stop beating up the dough! If you want tender rolls you have to handle it more gently!”) She is the one who inspired my love of Irish history, we spent hours together, poring over her expired subscriptions of Irish magazines.
These days, I look into the mirror, and I see that my face is turning into hers.
The first thing that comes to mind is, “Oh, my, Grandmother, what big nostrils you have.”
I never noticed her nostrils when she was alive. I noticed the love between her and her sisters, her devotion to my grandpa, the way she always baked delicious things when we came to visit. I noticed her spunk and her sass in responding to the jokes of my numerous uncles. And being one of the younger cousins, I noticed how she often put her arm around the teenage girl cousins, hugging them close as they talked about “things” in the kitchen together. I noticed that she always had an extra sparkle in her eye when she smiled at Jeff and the boys, who made us laugh with their antics, like hiding my uncle’s cigarettes up a tall tree. I can see her now, swatting away at those teasing faces with her hands, laughing at their torments as they wheedled for more cookies.
I saw a lot of love and devotion and laughter. I saw her as the heart of her huge, happy family.
I never saw big nostrils. Or wrinkles, or grey hair. I only saw Grandma, who loved us.
Was she smart? Did she know the quadratic equation?
I don’t know.
She was a grandma, a mother, a sister, a friend.
She was loved.
I’d like to remind everyone that to be loved IS to be beautiful.
When they pat your head and smile, they are telling you that they love you.
When they pull you close and hug you, they are not counting your grey hairs, and they are not measuring your nostrils.
They love you.
So in my grandmother’s words, “stop beating up the dough,” and be a little more gentle with yourself, please.
You are loved.