I often think that as I rock one of my three grandchildren. I never met anyone so in love with their grandchildren than my kids’ Mawmaw.
Mawmaw was born in Mississippi and lived there for most of her life, with brief stops in Louisiana and Illinois. She had beautiful blue eyes, a happy smile, and a Southern accent. She was my mother-in-law for eight brief years, but a grandmother to my children forever.
If she was around one of her seven grandchildren, or as she called them “pri-ching” (I think she was saying pretty thing, we’ll never know) she would sit in any available rocking chair, and one or more of the smaller children would climb up onto her soft grandma lap to rock. More often than not, she’d do such a thorough job of rocking them to sleep, she’d also fall asleep, an empty coffee cup in her hand.
She died years ago of a stroke. My kids were devastated. We all were.
Fast forward several years. I now have my own grandchildren. I have set aside Sundays for my grandie day. It started with Alyssa, the first one, three years ago. Her sister Sophia was born in January of this year and cousin Shawn in July. I know the babies would have loved her and she would have treasured them.
I started to feel Mawmaw’s presence in our home about three years ago when Alyssa was about five months old. I had rocked her to sleep in the rocking chair—where else would I be?—and she was beginning to wake up from her nap. I was enjoying the sweet weight of her on my chest and the feel of her little hand on my neck as I hummed a lullaby.
My black lab, Cooper, lifted up his head as if he heard something. For long moments he stared up at the ceiling in the corner of the living room. Spider, I thought. Or some kind of fly. It was summertime, after all. I lost interest in what he was doing as I patted the baby’s back.
My eyes settled closed again but flew back open when the dog got up and walked over to the spot he had been staring at. He had my full attention now as I strained to see what he was looking at but, as hard as I tried, I could not see anything.
The baby woke up and pushed against my chest to smile at me with sleepy eyes. I shifted position to have her seated on my lap to play patty cake the way Mawmaw would always play it. When she got to a certain part, Mawmaw went off script and dramatically sang her own words in her Deep Southern accent. “And TROW it in the pan!” while windmilling the baby’s arms. Not “throw”, but “trow.” To their delight, she would just continue saying that one phrase over and over until they were both giggling.
As Alyssa and I played, I could hear her voice in my head as I chanted the rhyme. I always sang it the way Mawmaw did but today was special; as I held the baby’s chubby fists in my hand she kept turning her head to the side and laughing. Not at me, but at something—someone—else.
The dog padded over to my chair and sat down. He watched with interest the same space that caught the baby’s attention.
It was then that the light scent of Mawmaw’s perfume washed over the both of us and I was flooded with the certainty that she was right there with us, watching over her “precious little one,” singing Patty Cake in only the way Mawmaw could. I could literally feel her. I had chills all over and burst into tears of happiness. Wherever Mawmaw was, she had dropped by to help me sing to the baby. To check on her. To love her with me.
It’s been three years since she first dropped in, but she hasn’t stopped peeking in on her little ones. I feel her presence quite often and it’s very soothing. I talk to her from time to time as well, because I’m certain she can hear me. “Aren’t they precious?” I say. “I mean, could they be any sweeter?” Her love for them permeates the room, and her answer is immediate. They are precious, she says. Mawmaw love love loves you, she coos to them.
I feel warmer. Lighter.
Although Mawmaw never got to meet her great grandchildren on the physical plane, that doesn’t stop her from knowing them. She loves to visit her “pri-chings” and I am certain she enjoys Sundays every bit as much as I do.