Written for The PJ Library July e-newsletter
Abby was in tears. Her mother and father were in tears. And so was Grandma….There were hugs and kisses and all too soon they said their good-byes. And Grandma went home. Alone.
Thus opens First Rain, July’s PJ Library offering about a young girl who moves to Israel with her parents. After reading the first few pages about a bereft grandma, soon to be miles away from her beloved granddaughter, I sorely wanted to close the book and put it away. Forever. My mother, after all, lives four hundred miles away. Also alone. This was not my idea of a relaxing bedtime story.
But like all children, my kids will not tolerate my putting away an unfinished book. So on we went. Fortunately, after telling Abby “I wish you were staying here….Israel is so far away!” Grandma becomes a bit less, um, passive aggressive. She stops grieving and puts her energy into maintaining a close relationship with Abby, despite the many miles between them.
They begin by exchanging letters. They write emails. They talk on the phone. They send photos. Grandma mails Abby autumn leaves, and Abby sends grandma mud from the Dead Sea. When grandma arrives for a surprise visit at the end of the story, it’s as if she and Abby have never been apart.
While we don’t live in another country from my mother, a seven hour drive is a long distance, especially for young children. Bubbe can’t come to school assemblies, invite us for shabbat dinner, or help out with babysitting. Nevertheless, like Abby and her grandmother, my children have an extraordinarily close relationship with their Bubbe, much closer than some of my friends’ children have with their local grandmas and grandpas.
Thinking about this, I recently asked my mother if there was any positive side to living a few states away from her grandchildren. She laughed. “I would never choose to live so far apart,” she said. “But I do love the way our time together is always a special occasion.” When Bubbe arrives at the airport, which she has done approximately every eight weeks since they were babies, the girls run to the security line to shower her in hugs and kisses. When Bubbe is here, the girls spend the entire visit (and I do mean the entire visit) playing with her. Because she’s only here for a few days, I don’t stand in the way of her granting (almost) as many yeses as she wants – generous gifts, over the top desserts, late bedtimes, and even days off of school to be with Bubbe. And not unlike the long-distance romance my husband and I shared the year before we were married, everyone is on their very best behavior.
So, I don’t blame Abby’s grandmother for being terribly sad when her grandaughter moved to Israel. I don’t blame my mother for envying her friends whose grandchildren live around the corner, or the next town over. And I won’t blame myself for moping when my own children inevitably choose to raise their families somewhere other than where I call home. But as I’ve learned from my mother, and Abby’s grandmother, the sad and resentful feelings should be either tucked away, or reserved for the parents. The grandchildren deserve nothing but hugs, kisses and extra large ice cream sundaes.
The PJ Library® program sends Jewish-content books and music on a monthly basis to families with children through age eight. Created by The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, The PJ Library is funded nationally in partnership with The Harold Grinspoon Foundation and local philanthropists/organizations.