She Looks Just Like . . .

She Looks Just Like . . .

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

She Looks Just Like . . .

A man finds room in a few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I gazed in awe at my newborn granddaughter, all I could think about was the wonder of God’s handiwork— until I heard the words, “She’s all her mother, even her toes.” Each word was spoken with emphasis, followed by an echo, “Yes, even her toes,” as if that was the final word on the subject.

I stood outnumbered in a sea of in-laws. Gazing at the ten tiny pieces of evidence before the court of family opinion, I failed to see the referenced genetic code etched in such delicate pink appendages.

Can’t my son claim even one little toe for our family? I silently cried out.

I had no idea what it would be like to be a first-time grandma. All my friends said it was the most wonderful experience in the world. So far my experience wasn’t going too well.

Slowly, the in-laws’ convictions got to me. I left the hospital with one prevailing thought: I guess I’m a grandma of another family’s baby.

The personal grandma chamber in my heart closed up. After waiting thirty years, it had flowed with grandma’s blood for a brief thirty minutes only.

You need to pull yourself together, I thought as I climbed into the car. Suddenly, my first memories of the baby’s mother flashed before my mind—how her smile illuminated the sanctuary when she was a high-flying angel at the Crystal Cathedral, how her fingers performed an Irish jig when she signed for the deaf, how her blonde hair and flowered skirt blew in the wind of the spirit when she worship-danced. A rare beauty, within and without, she had stolen my heart.

Even if my son hadn’t married her, she would have been my friend for life. Of course it’s a privilege to have a grandchild who resembles her!

With excitement, I hung out at the baby’s house the next day and the next. I watched and waited for my granddaughter to wake up so I could make early eye contact with that beautiful face. Days turned into weeks, but eventually the bluest eyes, rosiest cheeks, blondest hair and most radiant smile greeted me. I beamed back at her until my smiley muscles ached.

In another few months, her fingers, like precise pincers, held the tiniest of objects. I clapped my hands with amazement.

In a few more months, she toe-danced, twirled and reached for the sun. Overjoyed, I spun around and around with her.

She was just like her angel mother—her smile, her hair, her fingers and yes, even her toes.

The grandma chamber in my heart pumped with delight—until one startling day. I looked in her crib and saw a different child gazing back at me.

What is going on, God? You gave me a granddaughter who looks like her beautiful mother. Now you steal her out of the crib one night and replace her with a child who looks like my son?

“Yes, she has her father’s eyes and expressions,” the court of family opinion confirmed.

I conceded. When she looked at me I saw her father’s deep, contemplative eyes. When she said “uh-oh” as she picked up scraps from the floor, I realized she was a neatnik like her dad. When her legs grew off the doctor’s charts, I knew they were her daddy’s long legs. When she became strongly independent, I remembered, so was her dad.

My grandma’s heart thrived with this fresh supply of past and present memories, until it suffered a second shock, six months later.

“Your granddaughter looks just like you,” someone said to me. Family opinion voted affirmatively.

Oh, no, poor kid, I thought. I couldn’t believe that in less than two years she had gone through three distinct metamorphoses, from a look-alike of her mother, a stamp imprint of her father, to a picture of me! What was she—a child or a butterfly?

Curious, I did some research. I learned that if I were to look into a cocoon in the early stages, I would find a puddle of glop that contains imago cells with DNA-coded instructions for turning cream of insect soup into a delicate, winged creature.

That’s it! She’s a child with the power of glop! She will change her identity many times, each time emerging like a beautiful butterfly. Yet I will be proud that this everchanging display of beauty, in each stage of life, is my unique first granddaughter.

Margaret Lang

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