One day last summer, I was with my granddaughter Camille. We walked to a park near my house where there was a mucky pond with ducks, a bench swing, an overgrown path. The day was warm and clear, sunny enough that three-year-old Camille wanted to wear her sunglasses. They were beauties, too. Purple, with rhinestones around the lenses.
We walked to a playground when Camille tired of the park. The playground had kiddie swings, slides in three different sizes, a jungle gym. It rested in the shade of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, where countless kids from my neighborhood have skinned their knees and run home to families who weren’t Catholic.
After telling Camille it was time for lunch, we strolled home hand-in-hand. Camille no longer wanted to wear her sunglasses. Would I carry them?
Instead, I showed her how to carry her own sunglasses. I hung them from the neck of her little purple dress, told her how easy it was to carry them that way. She seemed delighted to learn this and walked the rest of the way back to my house with them hanging there.
If only all the things we carried were so easy to hold. I had a moment of wondering what else Camille would carry in her life. Sadness? Joy? Memories? Dreams? Regrets?
I carry memories of days like this with my daughter Abby and my son Shawn, days that now seem distant. Camille is Shawn’s daughter through and through right down to her curly brown hair. She is a force with her three-year-old stubborn certainty about what she wants and when she wants it, a comic with her emerging sense of humor, and a lock-box who remembers everything I say. She nudges me to remember when Shawn discovered slides and how that morphed into things with wheels: rollerblades, bikes, skateboards, cars. I am carried along a rush of images that fills me till I burst.
A lifetime of being a parent, and now a grandparent, and I still want to slow the flow of moments so I can savor each one. Even though I carry them all in some part of my heart, little pieces blur each time I bring them out for a look.
That’s when I am sad. That’s when I want to stop time, before the images are too soft to see the finer details.
I’m glad the present always brings me back. The little hand in mine, the little girl who says, “Grams, do you have grapes?” and I am carried into the here and now.
Camille wanted to be carried when she was just learning to walk. On that summer day at the park and the playground, she wanted me to carry things for her. And then Camille learned to carry her own sunglasses.
Maybe that will be a memory we both carry forward.
image from Clipart Panda.