11: Angel, Grandma, Friend

11: Angel, Grandma, Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Angel, Grandma, Friend

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.

~Author Unknown

It all started at a birthday dinner for one of the moms from daycare. We had balloons and ribbons and confetti all over the table—and no kids.

Okay, technically, there was one kid: my second child was only eight months old, so I brought her with me that evening. The restaurant was busy, as usual, so my baby was tucked out of the way on the floor in her car seat. I was happy to be out for a nice dinner with friends, and I didn’t mind that I would only be able to half-participate.

I chatted happily until I was interrupted by little chirps from the floor. When I plucked my baby girl out of her seat, I could see that she was not sleepy, nor was she hungry. “I think she just wants to see what’s going on,” I said to the mom nearest me.

After settling my baby, I tuned back to the conversation, which had moved on from where I left off. As I scanned the faces across from me, looking for a place to jump back in, I noticed a woman across the restaurant weaving her way through the tables. She was heading straight for me.

“I would never have known there was a baby in here if I hadn’t seen you walk in carrying her. She’s being so good,” the woman said with a wide smile. “Oh, she is such an angel. Can I hold her?”

I froze. It would be rude to say “No,” wouldn’t it? My child’s safety comes first, of course, but I’d been taught all my life not to be rude. This woman seemed brash, but harmless.

“Sure,” I said. Even as I write this, that moment of uncertainty still makes me catch my breath.

As she gently cuddled the baby in her arms, she told me about missing her grandchildren in Montreal. My own mom had passed away before meeting her first grandchild. I relaxed a bit, realizing that holding this baby was a gift that I could give to this other grandmother.

“I can watch her for a bit while you enjoy celebrating with your friends,” she offered.

Now I had found my line in the sand. No. This was not an option. “That’s a wonderful offer,” I managed, “but I’ll have to feed her in a few minutes, anyway. Thanks, though.”

Not put off in the least, the woman took a few more moments to enjoy snuggles, then returned my baby to me. “If you ever need a surrogate grand-maman, please give me a call,” she said, handing me her number. “Au revoir.”

We have a supportive family on both sides, but we live on Vancouver Island, and our aunts, uncles, and grandparents are scattered across Canada—spread from the east coast to the prairies to the west coast. I know that it takes a village to raise a child. I chose to reach out, rather than retreat. Prior to this, I had seriously considered checking out the local resources for surrogate grandmas, but had never actually done anything about it. Now I had one drop into my lap! Could it be that easy?

I agonized over that phone number like a teen agonizing over a crush. A few weeks later, I called her. “Hi, Dee. Remember me and my baby girl from the restaurant in Coombs?”

Much to my surprise, it was that easy. In no time, we had arranged a play date in the park: Dee, my two children, and me. And then another date for coffee and a muffin at a café. And then one at the beach, and another . . . and another . . .

And then I agonized over how easy it was—how easily this random person fit into our family’s life. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, I thought on many occasions. But I resisted the thought and continued on this journey, despite my misgivings.

And that’s how Dee became our surrogate grandma. She’s a young, spirited grand-maman who has adopted my children as her own grandchildren. When I’m stuck with too many places to be in too few hours, she gently reminds me, “Isn’t that what a grandma would do?” When she needs a break from her own life stresses, she borrows the kids for water-gun fights and obstacle-course races and picnic suppers on the beach. And each time I pick up the kids, she thanks me— for trusting her with my children, for giving her that special pleasure reserved just for grandparents.

And Dee doesn’t just take the children off my hands; she sometimes takes my hand, too. “I think we deserve a nice dinner out,” Dee said to me six months later. “What say we go celebrate Mother’s Day together?” So we did. We enjoyed a glass of wine, an unhurried meal and easy conversation.

A year later, Dee insisted that my partner and I needed some time away from the kids. “Go. Make a reservation. Just let me know the dates and make it happen.” So I did. I left the children with Dee so Mom and Dad could enjoy a weekend getaway in Tofino.

It’s been nearly two years since that fateful meeting at the restaurant. If I had brushed off this perfect stranger, I would never have Dee. She often reminds me, bluntly but firmly, what a wonderful family I have and how lucky I am.

There is no question I made the right decision in the restaurant: to trust that there are good people in the world, and maybe even angel-friend-grandmas among us. I’m learning from Dee, so I can be someone’s surrogate grandma one day, too.

~Nicole Muchowski

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