Sometimes, in my retirement, I feel guilty that I am not volunteering somewhere for some charity or organization that could use my expertise. When our four children were growing up, my husband and I were constant volunteers in the children’s school, music and sports activities. We did field trip chaperoning, built stage sets, spent endless hours making costumes, and mentoring kids backstage during rehearsals, baked endless cookies and cupcakes, and sold raffles. I have thought about mentoring, foster kids, teaching computer skills to others, soup kitchens and on and on. However, I realized recently that I am still doing these things in a different way.
My grandchildren could ask me to do anything, and I would be there for them. They enrich my life, charm and amuse me, and sometimes, I lose sleep at night worrying about them even though I know they are in very good hands. I especially enjoy mentoring at homework time (although one granddaughter (14) insists that I am tutoring). As long as the questions are not about math with x in the equation, I’m good. Those go to Grandpa or Mom. My grand-daughter’s self-confidence and grades have improved which is just as much a source of pride for me as it is for her. In addition, we get to spend some wonderful time together discussing science, her career goals, drinking tea, baking, and watching American Idol if time allows. It is a one-on-one time for us and I hope she will look back on this someday as a special time. I also love to go to her choral concerts and her volleyball games. I could be doing this with a stranger’s child, but I feel fulfilled and accomplished by being with my own grandkids.
One of our grandsons spent quite a bit of time here before he started school. His mom worked one day a week and he stayed with me. Now that he is older (almost 9) and in school and playing sports, those times are a lot fewer, but just as special. He would sleep over and wake me at 6 a.m. His little face would be nose to nose with mine and he would say “Memes, so what project are we doing today?” I finally made a rule that he could not wake me until 8 a.m. (I usually never made it until then, but at least I didn’t have to come up with a project – usually a superhero costume – until after breakfast.) He came up with some winners – superheroes I never heard of. I would have to call his Dad or go online to get a glimpse of these characters so I could replicate them out of cloth. We’ve made a photo collage of some of the creations, and I can’t believe how young he was at the time, and how he managed to wrap me around his little fingers. His big brown eyes would fill with tears during his goodbyes, and my heart broke every time. One-on-ones are so special. Invariably, his cousins would come over to spend time with him which he dearly loved, and still does. My closets are still full of “project stuff” which I am loath to toss because he now has a younger brother, and the kids are always looking for a “project.” We were able to enroll him in basketball “camp” and in MLS soccer camp for a couple of summers which meant he had to stay with us a week at a time. I also spent many hours with him at our neighbor’s pool where he learned how to swim. He loved the water enough to almost conquer his fear of dogs. He had to get through the gauntlet to make it to the pool, but he knew once he hit the water, the dogs would not bother him.
My mom was not a crafty person – with 5 kids she didn’t have time, anyway. My Great-Aunt Madeline introduced me to crafty things. I didn’t spend a heck of a lot of time with her, but remember two projects in particular. We went to Jones Beach one day – my first time there. After collecting pails of shells, we went back to her house. She pulled out a can of silver paint and some brushes. Voila – my first crafting project. Later one she taught me to make artificial flowers from crepe paper and gave me a supply of paper and wire to bring home. I never did much with crafting after that, but learned to sew to the point of teaching sewing, and delving into other areas of crafts a little here and there. Now I’m constantly keeping my eyes open for kids’ projects or projects for my senior lady friends to do.
The other day, I reminded my 15 year old granddaughter about her early piano playing days. At about the age of 2 or 3 she would come to my house, sit at the piano and place a music book on the stand. She would call me into the room to “turn pages” for her. She would play a little random melody, sing, then look at me and nod her head to tell me it was time to turn the page (which of course I did willingly because it was so adorable). She and her sister would come to my house for their lessons until the teacher broke her elbow and was unable to teach any more. By then, the girls had gone on to other instruments – the flute, clarinet, and voice, and soccer. Again, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to mentor, spend time and develop close relationships with these girls.
One of the kids first introductions to classical music was the “William Tell Overture.” The arrangement starts out with cows “mooing” then goes into the fabulous “giddyap” music. We developed a dance to the beat of the music where they would gallop in place for part of the music and when the beat got faster, they would gallop around the room. There was a lot of giggling going on, and some great exercise as well. We all still laugh about it, and they want to teach the younger ones how to do the “moos” as they call it. Some great memories there.

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