There is a story that I sort of remember my grandmother telling me (or it might have been my mom, I can’t be sure. Memory is tricky, you know.) When her mother left England to come to this country, her mother (my grandmother’s grandmother if you’re trying to keep track) fainted in the train station when they said good-bye because she knew she’d never see her daughter again. All communication going forward would be by snail mail via ship.
When my grandmother left home, when she married my grandfather and moved to the wilds of Wyoming (from Utah), it must have felt far to her family. They traveled three days by train. Letters followed. Visits were possible, though challenging. Phone calls eventually became possible.
I grew up within a few miles of both of my grandmothers. Regular visits were possible, though both grandmothers had children and grandchildren that lived out of state. I know I felt a sense of following in others’ footsteps, a kinship with them when the hub’s job took us a 2-3 day drive from where I grew up.
My mom didn’t faint when we moved several states away. She wasn’t happy, but she didn’t faint. She knew she’d see us again. That we’d have phone calls and letters. And we could visit each other without the risk of a sea voyage type death.
As my own Grandma Project shifts to long distance, I’ve found myself thinking about those leave takings, about going where life takes us. When we’re young, we think we’re striking out from our beginnings. Making our own pattern in the world. And we are but…There are patterns that emerge again and again. There are connections forged—across the miles and across time—patterns that pull us together. Patterns that can pull us apart if we are not careful. Patterns that can bubble up or form out of the chaos and challenge of day to day living.
While I can appreciate those patterns—and learn important lessons from those who went before me, I’m find I’m grateful I don’t have to learn everything they did. That, no matter how far my children and grandchildren get from me, it is not far enough that I can’t stalk, er, visit them. And that we have face time, cell phones that take instant photos that can almost instantly be texted in a grandmotherly direction, flat rate long distance calling, and email.
And we have love. We have lots of love. :-)
What patterns do you see in your life? In your past or in your family’s past? Do you find them forming in your life, too?
Pauline Baird Jones
Perilously romantic fiction for armchair adventurers