Family life

The other grandmother

Susan invites a new member into the family.

By Susan Goldberg
The other grandmother

Photo: AureliaAngelica/iStockphoto

We’ve been adopted.
I had a feeling that we were leading up to it, but a couple of weeks ago we made it official: We’re going to be Carol’s family, and she’s going to be our… well, our Carol.
We decided it over a Friday-night dinner in December, when Carol came over with wildly successful Hanukkah presents (neither of which, mercifully, required batteries) for the boys and they, entranced, played with her for hours.
That dinner had been our long-overdue thanks for the magical, lazy day we’d spent at Carol’s cottage — or, as they call cottages here in Thunder Bay, Ontario, her “camp” — in August, when we’d shown up with a cooler and bathing suits and towels, and had barbecued and talked and played in the lake and made tiny wax animals from a kit. She’d created a full-fledged treasure hunt for the boys, complete with a map and a dozen or so riddles that led to a literal X marking the spot on her rocky beach sand. The kids dug up a repurposed salad container filled with bubbles and granola bars and art supplies. Totally awesome. At the end of the day, they both threw their arms around her in goodbye hugs, and my partner, Rachel, and I marvelled at the kindness of a relative stranger, the sweetness that can ensue when you take a risk and decide to get to know someone.
We’d met the previous year at a synagogue function. Carol, probably in her mid-60s, took a shine to our kids, in particular our younger son, Isaac. “He’s a little spark, isn’t he?” she said about him — and then mentioned how much he reminded her of her own godson, now living in a different city. It was obvious she missed him sorely. She’d come to a couple of my readings. We’d sat next to each other at a public lecture. She always asked about the boys: how they were getting along in school, what they were up to. And then the cottage, and dinner, and then she mentioned that she’d love to babysit if Rachel and I ever wanted to get out on a date. And we, gobsmacked with delight and gratitude, said, “Well, if you insist… ” And we talked about where we’d all grown up and what it was like to live far away from siblings and grandparents and cousins, and Carol said, “Well, I usually have a family —”
And Rachel said, “We’ll be your family.”
So: it’s official. We get to be Carol’s family. The details, of course, will work themselves out, but I imagine that the arrangement will involve regular rotations of Friday-night dinners and babysitting, cups of tea and cottage days, invitations to school plays and soccer tournaments, and regular check-ins to make sure that everyone’s OK — or even thriving.
We’ll figure it out as we go along, see where it takes us. But for now, for us — transplants to this city, with the closest grandparents a two-hour flight away — it’s pure gold.

This article was originally published on Mar 14, 2013

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