Working out-of state all summer has meant that I've missed two of my grandchildren's birthdays. Darling Renee, our youngest, turned 3, and her older brother, George, turned 8 — without us.
I have made a special chocolate cake with buttercream icing for each of my children's birthdays since my daughter was born in 1968. It is moist and delicious and I still bake it in the same aluminum pan I bought 48 years ago. I used to use a simple cake decorator kit to write Happy Birthday on top, but as Gramma, I try to be more creative.
I make the same cake, but each is now decorated according to the grandchild's interests. George loves nature and especially reptiles, so last year I found miniature palm trees, snakes, turtles and very strange-looking iguanas to top his cake. I tinted some frosting blue for water, and some green for ruffled grass, and placed the little rubber animals on the appropriate background. I still had room for his name and a small Happy Birthday in a pond. When my daughter's son, Jack, who loves Matchbox cars, turned 6, I whipped up a racetrack with eight very tiny cars racing through the icing.
The children love the surprise, and knowing that each cake was created just for him or her. I think they will always remember me for the effort. They all like eating the cake; well, except George. He likes the theme and the frosting. His mom and dad eat his cake.
What They'll Remember
Many of us who grew up with grandparents have special memories of moments that became special treats, then routines, then traditions. I remember my Gramma teaching me to sew and bake pies when I came to visit her — she always had time for me. I want to be a grandmother like her, so I try to create little celebrations or traditions to give special meaning to my relationship with my four grandchildren, some way to let them know that they are each unique.
Each Monday, I pick Hattie, 9, and Jack up from school so they can avoid after-school care for a day. I've always dropped Hattie off at the stable to ride but Jack used to come straight home to his computer games — with no bonding time for me.
Then I discovered that he only likes banana bread from a certain bakery near my house. Now I bring him a slice of that banana bread each Monday and we sit at my kitchen counter to eat it. Jack is a slow eater, and quieter than his effervescent sister; we talk about summer activities, favorite books, and Matchbox cars. I love his big grin when he asks each week if I remembered his special snack.
Things You Least Expect
The things we remember: I was walking my dog with my friend Diane the other day discussing our grandparent memories. She said her grandma always called her to help zip up her dress. She had to stand on the bed to close the zipper all the way to the neck. Diane smiled remembering how special it felt when her grandma called her "my zipper girl."
It's these little things our grandchildren will remember when they are middle-aged and we are just fond memories. I think I will make cakes for Renee and George when I get home so our tradition can continue unbroken.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.