Sometimes I pretend I'm her mother. That's okay, isn't it? Sometimes, when I'm walking my granddaughter all over town, I look up and see how much the town has changed in 40 years and how much I have changed, too.
But sometimes I think how nothing has changed. How it's the same, really. The world, my town, the sun rising and setting, a permanent backdrop. And for a few crazy, giddy seconds, time slips out of sequence and I pretend that the baby in the carriage isn't my granddaughter at all, but mine.
The carriage I push is different, of course. It's multipurpose and sturdy. So is the car seat. Charlotte can go from being driven to being pushed without being disturbed. And the baby in the carriage? She's dressed in pink, and the first baby I walked was all in blue. I see this.
I see the physical differences. There are so many more houses and fewer trees than there used to be. The groan of traffic is louder. The old wooden bridge, the woods behind the football field, the movie theater, the drug store, they’re gone.
So many people are gone, too.
But I also see how much remains the same.
I'm the same. I may not look it but I'm the same person I was when the carriage I pushed was a big English pram, a gift from my mother-in-law, and the child in it was my firstborn. I feel the same joy heading out the door — excited, happy, proud, the ground underneath me, the sky above and the air I breathe no different now than they were then.
So what that the teenage girl who used to babysit for my children is a woman now with three children of her own. I see her waiting for the school bus with her oldest daughter and I wave and think, "She's all grown up." I understand this. I understand that my youngest daughter's best friend — who used to be a tomboy — is 30 now and totally female. I understand that the clock has been ticking and time has been passing and decades have come and gone.
But it's hard to believe in time when you're pushing a baby carriage and the air is as clear as it’s been this fall and the leaves are orange and red and the sun is warm and the shadows are long and you're looking down at a baby, and not into a mirror or back at the past.
The shapes of the streets are the same, straight in some places and all curves in others. The stone walls. The old houses. The churches. Even the people are the same, some strangers, but some just older.
Life is short. That's what you hear over and over, but that's not what you believe. Not when you're young, and it takes forever to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas, never mind being 30 someday. And then you're 30 — how did you get to be 30? — and you begin to think that maybe there's something to this. Maybe life is shorter than you think.
But the days are long and you're busy and you're always tired because someone has a cold and someone else has a project due and someone is always awake in the middle of the night. And there’s work and meetings and it is impossible to believe for more than a minute that life is short when a single day can feel like forever.
I walk my granddaughter down the streets where I walked my own children more than 30 years ago.
"What's that?" I would play, pointing up.
And each of them, eyes bright, would look up and shout, “Sky!”
"And what's that?"
"Tree," they would say.
"And what's that?"
“And what’s that?
Charlotte is only six months old, too young to play "What's that?" But I play it anyway. "That's the sky," I tell her. "And that’s a tree. And this is a leaf. And this is a Mimi!” And I stick my head in her carriage and making her laugh.
Mimi. Not Mama. But sometimes, for a little while, on a little walk, I pretend they're the same.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.