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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Baker

My Grammy World

While on my quick morning walk a few days ago, a woman I didn’t know hailed me from across the street and asked if I was enjoying my retirement. I don’t usually respond to people I don’t know who shout at me from long distances, but because it was a reasonable question and because she was much older than me (I live in a fantasy world) I replied honestly, “Sometimes.”

She nodded. “It gets boring, doesn’t it?” I smiled and walked on, thinking about her comment. Boring would not be the adjective I would associate with the direction my life has taken.

Five years ago I retired from three + decades of teaching. I looked forward to the rest of my life, writing in the daylight, slowing my pace, leisurely bathroom breaks that didn’t accommodate a recess schedule and, most of all, no longer needing to “have it all.” I wanted to live differently, to play with my brand new grandson, go out to breakfast with my husband, travel to exotic locations during a season that wasn’t summer, attend concerts on school nights and visit museums on school days. I wanted to be a full-time writer without a day job.

I know women whose lives are more chaotic than mine but I still look back and wonder how I managed the job, the children, the husband, the house, a book or two a year and a weekly newspaper column. Someone once told me that people could only handle three major roles in life with any degree of quality. Something has to give. In my case, it wasn't the children. They turned out remarkably well, as did the day job and the newspaper column. Clearly, the husband was a casualty. We divorced after 26 years, but the eventual peace was worth the severing of the marriage.

It was the books that suffered, not so much the quality, although some were better than others, but the career end of it, the marketing, the website, the newsletters, the advertising, the connection with the writing community that comes with participation. I couldn’t do that, so I didn’t. Networking ended up on the back burner.

People ask why I didn’t scale down, give up the day job and focus all my efforts on the writing. I suppose it was a lack of confidence and the possibility of never selling another book. There were the necessities of a monthly paycheck, the mortgage, braces for the kids, lessons, clothes, medical insurance, etc. My income was never optional and teaching school was a satisfying way to spend my days while earning that income.

Finally, however, the time was right. The children were married, I was of an age, and the future looked bright with the promise of rest, relaxation and reading. Then the babies came, three of them in two-year increments, John, Michael and Charlotte. Something happens when a mother becomes a grandmother. Instead of raising children, teaching manners, helping with homework and transporting them to games and lessons, she becomes a cheerleader, a confidante, a champion, a fairy godmother to these babies who are not really her own.

Expense and exhaustion are non-issues for me. There is no cap on why questions or on the number of times I sit on the floor to replay Candy Land. Visits to the gym are replaced by racing around the cul de sac to keep up with toddlers on wobbly two wheelers. Ingredients on the backs of packages are carefully scrutinized for allergens and sugar content. Organic fruit fills my grocery cart and a casual play date rises to the level of an FBI cross examination when I hear the words swimming pool, gun rack or pit bull. Embarrassing words I’d long ago given up, words like, “Grammy, I have to poop,” are shouted out loud in department stores and instead of wondering what anyone thinks of me, I laugh.

What is my return for this total restructuring of my life? It’s that shriek of delight, those outstretched arms and the words, “Grammy, it’s Grammy” when my grandchildren race across the yard and throw themselves into my arms. Happy Mother’s Day to all generations of mothers.

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