When I'm with my grandson, little vignettes of my sons as babies play like old home movies in my mind. When he reaches for a toy, or squirms when I try to dress him, or cries when I put him down for a nap, long forgotten memories spring to life. The memory of a mother is a jumbled, pathetic thing; mine was poor to begin with, and motherhood dealt it an almost fatal blow. It must be a trick of nature, a way of perpetuating the human race: if mothers forget how hard those first few years are, they'll have another baby and another one.

Before Will, when I thought back to those hazy days of young motherhood, what I mostly recalled was being overwhelmed. There never was enough time in the day or room in my brain to finish a thought, complete a job, or give my full attention to anyone or anything. Sure, there also was the sweetness of my babies' smiles, the uniqueness of their souls and the thrill of their development, but there was no time for committing the details to memory.

Being around Will is giving me an almost visceral opportunity to reconnect with lost remembrances of parenting past. I'm reliving my mother role, and at same time, I'm letting it go. I am finally accepting that my sons are fully formed dudes who stopped needing to be mothered years ago. I know: duh. But better late than never. I've already felt a shift in our relationships. We're becoming colleagues, friends, fellow travelers. My sons have Will to thank for my (absurdly delayed) graduation from motherhood.

A friend asked me if becoming a grandmother made me feel old. I didn't know what to say. It's not that it makes me feel young. Rather, it makes me know what matters; it wakes me up; it enlivens me. Joseph Campbell said that people are mistaken in looking for life's purpose in concrete and noteworthy ways. The only purpose there is, he said, is to feel "the rapture of being alive." That's what I feel as a grandmother. I am hooked up to a mainline of rapture in the form of a baby.

More on Family from Elizabeth Lesser


Next Story